KAILUA-KONA — It is safe to say that Waiakea has been a thorn in the side of most of its Division I opponents over the last few years, none more so than Kealakehe.
The Waveriders and the Warriors have met up in the BIIF D-I championship series for four consecutive years with the Warriors taking the first three of the best-of-three series in sweeps.
In fact, heading into the 2019 title clash, Waiakea had not lost in the playoffs since 2014. However, that all changed on Friday when Kealakehe outlasted the Warriors in a marathon eight-inning game that featured seven lead changes.
On a day when the long ball ruled in both the Division I and Division II matchups, ironically it was four singles that held up at the end of the day, giving Kealakehe an 11-9 victory over their east side rival.
“You can see it in the girls. Every time we play Waiakea the nerves are there and you can tell they start to beat themselves,” said Kealakehe head coach Loni Mercado. “Today was a different story. They went out there and had fun. They entered the game wanting to play the role of spoiler.”
Kealakehe nearly had the game wrapped up in the seventh inning, but the Waveriders lost a two-run advantage without allowing a hit.
“There were a few hiccups here and there, but I was super proud of the kids because they continued to fight,” Mercado said. “Eight innings today and they stayed in it. Kudos to them.”
In the top of the eighth, Kealakehe sent the top of the order up to the plate. Mia Joaquin led off with a single to left and Telsea Taketa beat out a perfectly placed bunt between the pitcher and the first baseman.
Nanea Kaluau, who hit a two-run home run in the top of the third inning, blasted a shot up the middle, which went off the pitcher’s glove and into center field, bringing home Joaquin. Kenye Palik added to the Waveriders lead with a single to left, which plated Taketa.
Kaluau finished the day with four hits, two runs and three RBIs.
“I just wanted to get on early and get runs so we could try to get ahead of Waiakea,” Kaluau said. “We really needed as many hits as we could get today.”
Mercado was at a loss for words to describe the play of Kaluau.
“Nanea is just amazing. I don’t even know what else to say about here. She is just terrific,” Mercado said.
After Kaluau and the rest of the offense gave the Waveriders a two-run lead in extra innings, Taketa sat Waiakea down in order in the bottom of the eighth, striking out the final batter to clinch the victory.
In a complete game performance, Taketa allowed nine runs, but only four earned, off nine hits. She struck out three and walked two.
Halee Sweat took the loss for the Warriors. She allowed 11 runs, 10 earned, off 17 hits in eight innings. Sweat walked five and struck out six.
While Kealakehe pulled out the victory, heading into the seventh it looked like the momentum was in Waiakea’s favor.
With the game tied at 5-5 entering the bottom of the sixth, Sweat was hit by a pitch and two batters later Alize Kaapana hit a two-run, go-ahead blast well over the left field fence.
Kaapana led the Warriors’ offense, going 2 for 5 with two runs and two RBIs. Jolene Hirata added a three-hit afternoon.
Now down by two after the homer entering the top of the seventh, Taketa walked and Kaluau hit an RBI double into an outfield gap. Kaluau scored on a ground-rule double off the bat of Palik to tie the game at 7-7.
But the Waveriders were not done there. Lucky Isisaki singled to center, moving Palik over to third. Palik scored on a sac fly to right by Bailey Busto-Beaudet to give Kealakehe the lead. A triple into the right-center gap by Malia Cosare added a second run to the advantage.
Cosare, who normally plays third base, had a big day at the plate, going 4 for 5 with two runs and an RBI.
“Malia has struggled at the plate for the past few games and she just came up big today in the outfield and at the plate,” Mercado said. “This was a huge game for her and I hope it helps her understand what she is capable of.”
With the win, the Waveriders (10-6) will enter Game 2 against Waiakea (12-3) at Kealakehe today in unfamiliar territory, one game away from clinching a BIIF title.
“If these girls want it bad enough, they will go out and get it,” Mercado said. “We have one more game. I expect Waiakea to come back even stronger, so we need to be stronger.”
Kealakehe is seeking its first league softball title.