KAILUA-KONA — Kamehameha’s Leiloa Bustamante only had one thought as she sent a fly ball to center field during Game 1 of the BIIF Division II championship series on Friday at Kealakehe High School.
She hoped that the ball was deep enough to allow Kuulei Ili — who led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a double — to tag up at second and advance to third.
Turns out, it was, but there was no need for Ili to tag up as the ball sailed over the centerfield fence for a two-run, walk-off home run.
“The ball was high and down the middle and when it went out I was so excited,” Bustamante said. “I knew I had to clutch up for my team. We had worked too hard to let the win slip away.”
The win did nearly slip away in the top of the seventh when the Warriors blew a 3-0 advantage before finally coming back to take Game 1 of the best-of-three series, 5-3 in extra innings.
Entering the bottom of the seventh, Kamehameha pitcher Brooke Baptiste and her defense were cruising. Through the first six frames, Baptiste had pinpoint control with 10 strikeouts and no walks. The defense behind her was also mistake free with no errors.
However, the Cowgirls pushed three runs across the plate to tie the game in what could have been their final at-bat thanks to a pair of timely hits along with two Baptiste walks and two defensive miscues.
“I have to give the credit to Kohala,” said Kamehameha head coach Akea Kiyuna. “They were able to make some adjustments and lay off pitches they were aggressive on earlier in the game. It worked for them.”
Game 2 of the series will be at Kealakehe today at 1 p.m. It’s Kohala’s first appearance in the BIIF D-II championship series since 2016. The Cowgirls (11-5) are looking for their first league title since 2008.
Kamehameha (17-0) is going for its eighth straight BIIF championship.
Baptiste recorded three more strikeouts in the top of the seventh and added another in the eighth to finish with 14 on the day.
In the bottom of the eighth, Ili sent a pitch down the third base line for a standup double. Bustamante then got the pitch she wanted and put just enough power behind it to clear the out-reached glove of Kohala centerfielder Danyka Cazimero, who made a valiant leaping attempt to try to save the game, with her momentum carrying her over the fence along with the ball.
“I told Leiloa to get a small hit and keep the inning going,” Kiyuna said. “She has a lot of power and she is becoming more consistent with it.”
Bustamante was one of two players to finish the game with multiple hits. She went 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs and one run scored. Her teammate, Dioni Lincoln, also had two hits.
Only one of the three runs Baptiste gave up was earned. She allowed three hits in the complete game victory, striking out the side on three separate occasions.
“She worked for it and stayed focused,” Kiyuna said. “She is trusting her defense more and more, hitting her spots and throwing strikes. The strikeouts are just a perk.”
Kohala’s Mikayla Kekoa took the loss despite a solid pitching performance. She completed all eight innings, allowing five runs — three three earned — off eight hits. She struck out three and did not walk a batter.
Kamehameha took the first lead of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Lincoln doubled down the third base line and Ili reached on an error. Both runners scored on a single to left by Baptiste.
The Warriors increased their lead to three runs one inning later when Kaula Martin reached on an error and scored on a Kawehi Ili single to left.
Anela Cazimero picked up a two-RBI single for Kohala in the top of the seventh and scored the game tying run off a pinch hit Leiana Caravalho bloop single to left, setting up the eighth inning heroics of Bustamante.