BIIF softball championships: Hilo sweeps Waiakea for Division I title
Pitcher Aliesa Kaneshiro pumped her fist in celebration after the final out Saturday, producing a championship grin that’s in its third year running. This time, however, her smile was a little wider than the past two.
Hilo held off Waiakea 10-8 on Saturday to sweep the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I softball championship series, turning in the program’s first perfect league season.
“I’ve never been undefeated in my baseball or softball career,” Kaneshiro said of the extra-special feeling she was soaking in at the Warriors’ field.
The Vikings (13-0) locked down the BIIF’s automatic berth in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament, which runs May 6 to 9 on Oahu. The Warriors (9-5) will host a team from the Oahu Interscholastic Association at 3 p.m. Tuesday in a state play-in game.
“It started to pick up halfway through the season,” Vikings coach Leo Sing Chow said. “Let’s try to go undefeated. It’s a huge accomplishment.”
Seniors Kaneshiro, Shyanne Higa-Gonsalves and Reisha Hoopii-Haslam were all mainstays in Hilo’s three-peat. Kaneshiro, who caught her sister, Ashlyn, as a sophomore before taking over full-time duties in the circle as a junior and senior, and Higa-Gonsalves were four-year starters.
Like any group that spends so much time together, Sing Chow said Hilo wasn’t without its “sibling rivalries.”
“We stuck together,” said Higa-Gonsalves, who finished 3 for 5 from the leadoff spot. “Hard work, confidence, and when everybody is down we pick each other up.”
The Vikings rode the middle of their order Friday for a 16-10 victory to take the series lead. In Game 2, the Nos. 6-9 hitters produced eight of Hilo’s 15 hits.
No. 9 hitter Sharlei Graham-Bernisto drove in four runs with two big hits in the middle innings.
“She started to turn it around halfway through the season,” Sing Chow said. “Some girls had a hot bat at the beginning, and others who were struggling then started to pick it up. That’s how you work as a team.”
Caitlin Price and Jordyn Breitbarth also finished with three hits each. Price tripled and scored in the second, and Hilo took advantage of two errors in the third to go ahead for good with a four-run rally.
Graham-Bernisto smacked a two-run double in the third and Higa-Gonsalves and Shalyn Guthier followed with hits to plate runs. Graham-Bernisto’s two-run single in the fourth put Hilo ahead 9-3.
“We just came in with confidence and wanted it,” Higa-Gonsalves said.
The underclassmen-laden Warriors were hurt by their season-long bugaboo: errors. They made five in back of starting pitcher Alyssa Hara and six in the game. Hara, a freshman, pitched five innings and allowed 11 hits and nine runs, five earned, with three walks.
“We shot ourselves in the foot again, but other than that we did a good job,” coach Bo Saiki said. “They never gave up, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Taylor Ogawa brought Waiakea closer with a two-run double off Kaneshiro in the seventh, but she finished off the Warriors with her seventh strikeout.
Kaneshiro allowed 10 hits — four apiece in the second and sixth — and didn’t walk a batter. She tripled and scored at the plate.
“I felt more confident than yesterday, that’s for sure,” she said.
Waiakea freshman Skylar Thomas (2 for 3) led off the sixth with a double and scored, finishing with two hits and an RBI. In the second inning, Kristi Hirata ripped a two-run double to center and scored on a double by Ciera Kellett-Tavares (2 for 3) to tie the score at 3-all.
Hilo 124 200 1 — 10 15 1
Waiakea 030 022 1 — 8 10 6