Youth roundup: Kealakehe’s Leisha Nakagawa helps RBI All-Stars reach title game
Tracy Miyashiro is based in Hilo, but he prefers to include all of the Big Island when he stocks his Hawaii RBI softball team.
One of the ways he recruits West Hawaii is by word-of-mouth. On Saturday, that tool and his philosophy both spoke volumes.
Kealakehe senior Leisha Nakagawa hit a two-run double and finished with two hits Saturday, and Hawaii beat Anaheim, California, 6-4 to reach the under-19 championship game at the RBI West Regional in Compton, California.
Trying to reach the RBI World Series for the third consecutive year, Hawaii (3-0) faces Arizona (2-1) at 7 a.m. Hawaii time Sunday.
“I like to get players from different areas and use as many schools as possible,” Miyashiro said. “I know during the high school season they only see each other during games. But once we get them all together on the trip it’s great.”
Hilo graduate Aliesa Kaneshiro pitched three innings to get the victory, then Kamehameha’s Mykala Tokunaga came on and worked four innings to secure the save. Each gave up a pair of runs with a strikeout.
“That was the plan: to use both,” Miyashiro said. “They give us something different. Aliesa has a curve-drop and a changeup and Mykala uses a riser and screwball.”
He’s worked with many of his East Hawaii players when they were younger through his club team, the Hilo Comets.
“A lot of times the high schools get the credit, but the youth programs are where these girls learn the game of softball,” Miyashiro said. “The youth programs are where it is at.”
He went to the westside to find Saturday’s starting middle infield, shortstop Tavian Taketa (Kealakehe) and second baseman Bethany Batangan (Konawaena),
A conversation with one of Batangan’s parents was what led him to find Nakagawa and then ultimately Taketa.
After not playing in either game Friday, Nakagawa was inserted into the lineup at catcher and the move paid dividends during a three-run second inning.
Waiakea’s Skylar Thomas reached on a hit, Honokaa senior Kayla Requelman walked, and each scored on Nakagawa’s double. A courtesy runner came home on a sacrifice fly hit by Kamehameha’s Makena Wagner.
Kamehameha’s Kekai Wong-Yuen smacked a two-run triple in the seventh, scoring Nakagawa, who singled to center, and Waiakea’s Tierra Teves, who walked.
“It’s a deep team,” Miyashiro said. “We’ve got girls who can come in at any time and contribute.”
The final will be a rematch of Friday’s first game in which Hawaii escaped 7-6 on Batangan’s three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
“The first game after we arrived we were kind of sluggish, but we’ve started playing really well and are making defensive plays,” Miyashiro said. “This is a confident team.”
Hilo defeated Anaheim, California, 7-2 to reach the RBI baseball West Regional 13-15 championship game, which will be played Sunday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Keaau High’s Keian Kanetani pitched a complete game for Hilo, and Waiakea’s Jamieson Hirayama and Joey Ongais (2 for 4) helped power the offense with a two-run double and two-run single, respectively.
Coach James Hirayama took Hilo to Dodger Stadium on Saturday night to get them situated with the major-league surroundings.
“I’m sitting here looking at the field, and it’s beautiful,” he said. “It’s surreal.”
Maui’s Kyle Oshiro was 3 for 4 and Waiakea’s Caleb Freitas-Fields had two hits for Hilo (2-1), which will face undefeated Los Angeles at 6 a.m. Hawaii time.
Hirayama said major leaguer Kolten Wong called and gave the team a pep talk after he collected two hits for the Cardinals.
“It was great of him,” Hirayama said. “We have a unique opportunity on a unique stage.”
Haley Miyasato scored three goals as the under-14 Chicas reached the semifinals at the Beaverton Cup, outscoring their two opponents 10-0.
Chicas of East Hawaii haven’t been scored upon in six games in Oregon.
“Our defense was once again rock-solid today, continuing our shutout streak,” coach Skee Saplan said. “Our possession really shined in both games.”
He said Chicas came out lethargic against TUF Kryptonite before the first of Jordyn Pacheco’s two goals ignited the team to a 7-0 victory. Ayleemomi Amaral, Kalena Kekaulua, Nanea Rabang, Saydee Bacdad and Miyasato also found the back of the net.
Bacdad and Karla Ishii split time in goal on the day.
Earlier in a 3-0 victory against PFC Orange, Hollie Saplan capped the scoring after Miyasato had given Chicas a 2-0 lead at halftime.