HONOKAA — Like some of her teammates, Kohala’s Denae Rivera spent much of the season leading up to Wednesday’s third inning mired in a slump.
In the span of 34 minutes, the Cowgirls’ softball team made any previous hitting woes a distant memory.
Kohala rallied for 17 runs in the third en route to a 25-13 victory against Honokaa in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation third-place game.
“My legs were getting really sore from running,” Rivera said of an inning in which she provided a pair of run-scoring singles and scored twice.
Batting ninth, Rivera connected for four of Kohala’s 15 hits and drove in three runs at Honokaa Park.
“I just kept rallying up the team,” she said.
In a six-inning TKO, Kohala (5-8) beat the Dragons (4-8-1) on the road in the third-place game for the second consecutive year, qualifying for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament for the fifth straight year.
“Surprising, because it’s the best we hit all season,” Kohala coach Terence Alcoran said. “They knew if they wanted to win they had to hit, and they stepped it up today. I knew they had it in them, but who knew when it was going to come?”
It was 3:51 p.m. when Ashlyn Van Zandt led off the third with a walk.
She wound up with three plate appearances in the inning and scored three times.
Trailing 8-2, Kohala sent 21 batters to the plate and the first 14 scored on the strength of nine hits, seven walks and four errors.
Kiana Alejandro-Cazimero hit an RBI triple to cut the Cowgirls’ deficit to 8-6. When Alejandro-Cazimero ripped a two-run double in her next at-bat in the third, Kohala led 14-8. Kyrah Sol followed with another two-run double.
“Some of us were in slumps and we just came out of it and we were just smashing balls,” said Alejandro-Cazimero, who got the win in the circle and finished with three hits and five RBIs.
Tomiko Coito also finished with three hits — including an RBI single in the third in which she came all the way around to score on a three-base error — and drove in three runs.
Alejandro-Cazimero recovered in the circle after five Cowgirls errors in the second inning allowed Honokaa to score eight runs.
“We regrouped and calmed down because we were really nervous because it was a big game,” Alejandro-Cazimero said. “We thought it was going to be a really hard game, so we played our hearts out.”
She went the distance, striking out three and walking five. Only five of the runs allowed were earned.
Honokaa coach Wesley Fujimoto told Alcoran after the game that his club should envision “Honokaa” on opposing team’s uniforms once they get to states.
“Only when they play Honokaa do they hit like this,” Fujimoto said.
“When we threw outside, they hit it to right field and they went with the pitches.”
Kaitlin Agustin, the first of three Dragons pitchers, didn’t get an out in the third inning and took the loss.
Honokaa’s Kayla Requelman highlighted an eight-run second inning with a two-run double and finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs. Tyrah Fernandez was 2 for 2, including a two-run single, and Allie Shiraki finished her high school career with two hits.
“We just couldn’t keep up with Kohala,” Fujimoto said.
Kohala 20(17) 303 — 25 15 6
Honokaa 08 0 230 — 13 9 5