With a rocket for an arm, Aliesa Kaneshiro gave Hilo High a luxury at the catcher position that few softball teams in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation enjoyed.
“She was a threat back there,” coach Leo Sing-Chow said. “A weapon.
“It was tough to move her.”
Yet it was an easy decision at the same time.
Kaneshiro had lingering knee issues, and the Vikings needed an ace after Kaneshiro’s older sister, Ashlyn, graduated in 2012.
So Aliesa Kaneshiro transitioned to full-time pitcher for her junior season.
“My junior year was the hardest year,” Aliesa Kaneshiro said.
In Vikings softball terms these days, “hard” qualifies for when the program loses two BIIF games in a season.
“I learned the hard way, but we still got the BIIF championship,” Kaneshiro said. “It was a lot of stress.
“But my senior year, I was even better. I learned how to handle my composure.”
Armed with a new-found cool and confidence — not to mention improved breaking pitches to go along with an overpowering fastball — she became a weapon in the circle.
Kaneshiro was honored as the coaches’ BIIF Division I Player of the Year after leading the Vikings to an unbeaten BIIF season and their third consecutive league title. Including two losses at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament, she finished 14-2 with a 3.19 ERA, striking out 103 batters in 101 innings pitched. She yielded 88 hits and 63 walks.
“The unbeaten season just happened,” Kaneshiro said. “The goal all along was a three-peat.”
Hilo dominated the All-BIIF first team with seven selections.
Joining Kaneshiro were co-catcher Caitlyn Price (.306 average, seven RBIs, five steals); first baseman Shalyn Guthier (.288, four home runs, 20 RBIs); second baseman Shyanne Higa-Gonsalves (.544, 11 RBIs, 11 steals); Reisha Hoopii-Haslam (.386, 22 RBIs, five steals); and outfielders Jordyn Breitbarth (.218, six RBIs) and Amber Vaughn (.250, six RBIs).
Kealakehe placed co-catcher Kaleanani Anakalea-Haleamau, shortstop Tavian Taketa and utility Kelina Palmer- Kahananui on the first team, and Waiakea outfielder Cheylee Octavio also was selected.
The Vikings had no shortage of senior leadership last season, but Sing-Chow said one player was the fulcrum.
“The entire team would feed off Aliesa’s vibe,” Sing-Chow said. “The biggest thing was her showing mental toughness and working with her teammates.
“She was less hesitant and it calmed her down. The team sensed that and it gave them more confidence in themselves.”
Though she says catcher is still her strongest position, Kaneshiro is no longer concentrating on the position.
She’s a member of the Nobu Yamauchi RBI team and is slated to pitch and play third base on its trip to the mainland in July.
She’s also deciding between attending the University of Hawaii at Hilo or Hawaii Pacific University, and she plans to walk on to the softball team at either school.
The Vikings, meanwhile, are looking for another weapon at pitcher, and this search promises to last longer than their last one.
“It’s going to be hard,” Sing-Chow said. “We really don’t have anyone on the current team when it comes to filling her shoes.”