A strong package of savvy pitching and clutch hitting, Kihani Palmer-Kahananui helped lead Kealakehe to its first two state tournament appearances in 2011 and 2012.
On Tuesday at Kealakehe, Waveriders coach Wesley Takimoto saw the same kind of all-around skills in Palmer-Kahananui’s sister, Lina.
The younger Palmer-Kahananui picked up a win and a save in the circle while going 2-for-3 with two RBIs at the plate as Kealakehe defeated Kohala 8-6 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation softball game.
Palmer-Kahananui gave up four runs on seven hits through five innings before giving way to senior Ashley Isisaki in the sixth inning. But when Isisaki ran into trouble in the seventh, giving up a solo homer to Kohala’s Tiani Luga and issuing back-to-back walks, Palmer-Kahananui came on and retired the next three batters she faced.
“I was relaxed,” said Palmer-Kahananui, a junior who walked two and struck out four. “I just have to make sure I hit my spots.”
She certainly did that, peppering the inside corner and keeping the ball low in the strike zone. Palmer-Kahananui induced nine groundouts and three pop-ups on the infield.
“She’s really consistent for me,” Takimoto said.
Two years ago, the Kealakehe coach saw consistency at the plate from Kihani Palmer-Kahananui with runners in scoring position and two outs. On Tuesday, Lina Palmer-Kahananui followed suit, delivering a two-out RBI single in a four-run third inning that broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Waveriders (2-0) a 5-1 lead.
Freshman Kiersen Kahele, who went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, blooped a two-run double down the left-field line in the inning. Also, sophomore Leisha Nakagawa was 2-for-4 with a triple and two runs scored.
The Cowgirls (0-2) helped the Waveriders out in the inning by making two errors. Kealakehe leadoff hitter Tavian Taketa started the four-run rally with two outs when Kohala pitcher Ashlyn Van Zandt hit her with a pitch.
“That killed us big time,” Cowgirls coach Terrence Alcoran said. “It’s hard to come back from that. But it’s still early.
“We hit good. The attitude was good. We just have to make the plays.”
Van Zandt went the distance in taking the loss for Kohala, allowing eight runs — six earned — on seven hits. She struck out three and walked two.
“Her change-up was working good, and she was hitting the strike zone,” Alcoran said of Van Zandt.
Kohala outhit Kealakehe 8-7, with Luga going 2-for-3 with three RBIs. But the Waveriders wiggled their way out of trouble thanks in large part to a strong defense.
Taketa displayed a strong arm and a sure glove at shortstop while freshman Arlene Musrasrik stabbed a screaming one-hopper off the bat of Kohala’s Briana Harrison at third base to end a three-run fifth inning that pulled the Cowgirls within 6-4. Musrasrik’s play stranded two Cowgirls in scoring position.
Palmer-Kahananui said her defense allows her to feel more relaxed in the circle.
“You know you can rely on them,” Palmer-Kahananui said. “You know they’re going to make the play.”
Palmer-Kahananui, Isisaki — a senior who missed the Waveriders’ 19-0 win at Ka‘u on Saturday because of a stomach illness — and junior Kiana Mattos were the only upperclassmen in the starting lineup against the Cowgirls. The rest of the starting nine included four freshmen and two sophomores.
Before the spring, Takimoto figured he’d be in a rebuilding mode after graduating hard-throwing pitcher Summer McEntee and two productive hitters in infielders Nicole and Brooke Rivera. But he saw plenty of talent in junior varsity play last month, completely changing his outlook of the team.
Takimoto didn’t even have a full roster at his disposal on Tuesday, with starting catcher Nani Anakalea-Haleamau missing the game with what Takimoto called “health issues.” As a result, three starters played out of position, with Musrasrik moving from first base to third base, Nakagawa going from third base to catcher and sophomore Kawailehua Deuz shifting from the outfield to second base.
The Waveriders barely skipped a beat.
“The girls are good enough that they might be able to compete this year,” Takimoto said.
Kohala 010 030 2 — 6 8 3
Kealakehe 104 111 x — 8 7 2
c Honokaa 22, Hawaii Prep 6: Leading 10-6 after three innings at Honokaa’s Parks and Recreation complex, the Dragons scored 12 runs to put the game out of reach.
Honokaa (1-1) had just five hits in the contest, taking advantage of 23 walks and four hit batsmen by four Ka Makani pitchers.
Kaitlin Augustin earned the win, allowing six runs on four hits in three innings. She walked six and struck out two.
At the plate, Augustin went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Kawena Lim-Samura took the loss for HPA (0-2). In three innings, she gave up 12 runs on three hits. She struck out four and walked 17.
Kaui Taylor led Ka Makani’s offense, going 2-for-2.
Hawaii Prep 231 00 — 6 5 1
Honokaa 415 (12) x — 22 5 1
c Keaau 18, Ka‘u 5: Sophomore Lohi Kamakea-Wong won for the second time in as many starts this season as the Cougars (2-0) won in Pahala.
Senior Shaylin Navarro took the loss for the Trojans (0-2).
Keaau 311 67 —18 16
Ka‘u 102 20 —5 4
c Waiakea 18, Pahoa 0: Senior Brandi Maximo homered and senior Alexis Anzai struck out eight in a five-inning complete game as the host Warriors won their opener.
Junior Kaelee Carvalho drove in two runs for Waiakea, which scored 12 times in the first inning. Maximo finished 2-for-4.
Anzai allowed four hits and three walks.
Ranchell Berinobis collected two hits for the Daggers (0-2). Pahoa pitchers handed out nine walks. Mackenzie Singleton started and took the loss, pitching an inning.
Pahoa 000 00 — 0 4 2
Waiakea (12)02 4x—18 9 0
c Hilo 6, Kamehameha-Hawaii 4: Aliesa Kaneshiro pitched better as the game grew longer, and the Hilo softball team’s offense arrived just in time.
The junior allowed four runs (one unearned) on three hits and five walks, and she struck out six. She finished strong, retiring the side in the sixth and seventh innings.
The Division I Vikings (2-0) got into a groove late in the game with their bats. They scored two unearned runs in the third off starter Samantha Simmons when Sharlei Graham-Bernisto and Fantacie Keahilihau-Kuamoo both walked and scored on errors. Then they went scoreless for two innings.
Hilo scored four runs in the sixth to take a 6-4 lead, starting its rally with a Kamehameha walk and error. Then reliever Mykala Tokunaga gave up a bunt single to Reisha Hoopii-Haslam to fill the bases. Shyanne Higa-Gonsalves had an RBI single, and Shalyn Guthier followed with a two-run double. One batter later, Jordyn Breitbarth had a sacrifice fly to center. Tokunaga got a strikeout to end the inning.
Tokunaga, a freshman right-hander, pitched four innings in the loss. She allowed four runs (one unearned) on three hits and three walks, and struck out four. Simmons went three innings, yielded two unearned runs on two hits and two walks, and whiffed three.
Kamehameha’s defense had a tough day, committing three errors, which led to three unearned runs. Walks didn’t help either. Of the five combined free passes, three came around to score.
It was the same for Kaneshiro. Of her five walks, three turned into runs. But the biggest difference was her defense made only one error, which led to an unearned run, and bailed her out twice, gunning down runners at home.
In the first, after Elizabeth Kia’s RBI single to right-center field, Tiani Teanio fired to Kaneshiro at cutoff, who wheeled and threw to catcher Higa-Gonsalves for the tagout at home plate. In the fifth, after Jaylen Shiroma stroked a run-scoring single to center, giving the Warriors a 4-2 lead, center fielder Breitbarth fired a bullet to home for another inning-ending, rally-killing tagout at home.
Guthier had two RBIs, and Hoopii-Haslam was 2-for-4 to lead Hilo.
Shiroma and Kia each went 1 for 3 to lead the Warriors (1-1), the defending BIIF Division II champion.
Hilo 002 004 0 — 6 5 1
KS-Hawaii 120 010 0 — 4 3 3
Stephens Media’s Kevin Jakahi contributed to this report.