As disconcerting as it was, Kealakehe’s Leisha Nakagawa figured Honokaa’s comeback was inevitable. But, she says, the Waveriders’ softball team has learned how to keep its calm and pull through.
Laughter, according to Nakagawa, is the best medicine. That and a steady diet of Kealakehe’s hitters ripping the ball at the plate.
Kelina Palmer-Kahananui hit a three-run home run in the first inning Friday, and the Waveriders started cranking again during a go-ahead rally in the sixth, all of which was just enough to hold off the Dragons 12-11 in Big Island Interscholastic Federation softball at their home field.
“I think we’re getting better and starting to grow as team,” said Nakagawa, who finished with three hits and an RBI. “Laughing at practice and laughing in the dugout, that’s helped a lot. It helps the whole team stay relaxed and to know we’re just having fun out there.”
Leadoff hitter Tavian Taketa drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the sixth and Nakagawa and Breanna McLeod followed with hits as the Waveriders (5-3 Division I) scored five times to knock out Honokaa starter Kayla Kalauli.
“Each team wanted it,” said Palmer-Kahananui, a junior who finished with five RBIs. “We just had to bounce back and relax.”
Winning pitcher Kiara Cantiberos, the Waveriders’ third hurler of the game, came on in the sixth and got out of a bases-loaded jam after Honokaa (2-4-1 Division II) scored twice to tie the game.
Allie Shiraki touched Cantiberos for a two-run triple as Honokaa scored four runs in the seventh, but Cantiberos got out of the inning to secure Kealakehe’s third straight victory.
“Scary,” Nakagawa said. “I knew Honokaa was going to come back one way or the other.”
Taketa started in the circle, retiring the first nine hitters she faced on four strikeouts. Taketa seemed to tire in the middle innings, walking five batters, and the Dragons started to chip away at a 6-0 deficit.
“We came back strong,” Honokaa coach Wesley Fujimoto said.
Zarina Hashegawa doubled to bring home two runners as the Dragons got within 6-5 in the fifth. In the sixth, Palmer-Kahananui came on to pitch, but Jasmine Castro, Neve Ebreo-Castillo and Taylor Souza strung together three consecutive hits to tie the score at 7.
“First three innings, I thought we were looking great and finally coming around,” Kealakehe coach Wesley Takimoto said. “Then it was back to normal, making errors.
“What I like is we’re getting more consistent at the plate. Getting hits from girls who are supposed to be getting hits.”
Eight of the nine batters in his starting lineup collected at least one hit.
McLeod finished with two, including an RBI single in the sixth, and scored three runs, and cleanup hitter Kaleanani Anakalea-Haleamau provided an RBI double. In the second, Brittney Keaunui doubled and scored on Nakagawa’s single.
Kalauli took the loss, pitching 5 1/3 innings and striking out two with a costly walk to Keaunui to lead off the sixth.
Shiraki — who likely would have had a home run in the seventh if she didn’t slip after rounding first — and Castro each finished with two hits for Honokaa, which is still in position to grab the fourth and final spot in the Division II playoffs.
“We don’t play seven innings,” Fujimoto said. “They play whenever they want to play.
“They don’t always have confidence in themselves.”
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