The Eastside softball club team woke up early on Sunday with their bats ready to go for an 8 a.m. high school game against Kamehameha at the Walter Victor complex.
Eastside, a mix of Hilo and Waiakea players, scored nine runs in the first inning to power past the Warriors 11-3 in a five-inning, time-limit contest against the eight-time defending BIIF Division II champions.
“We had to come prepared,” Eastside coach Chanlee Ioane said. “It’s a tough Kamehameha team. We just told the girls we have to hit because they’re a tough hitting team. Our bats were hot. The girls played hard and tough from the beginning of the game until it was over.”
It was an impressive pitching by Brianne Felipe, a Waiakea sophomore, against Kamehameha, which still has three starters from the 2019 team that reached the third-place game at the HHSAA tournament. Second baseman Dioni Lincoln, center fielder Kaula Martin, and shortstop Kawehi Ili are all seniors.
The third Ili sister is Kahiwa, a sophomore third baseman. Kuulei Ili was a first baseman and a 2019 graduate. (That third-place game against Waialua was canceled.)
The right-hander went the distance for the win. She allowed six hits and four walks and struck out two. Felipe’s most clutch effort came in the second inning with the bases loaded and two out. Eastside was ahead 9-2 with Lincoln at the plate.
On the first pitch, Lincoln hit a high, long fly ball that was caught right before the right-center field fence. Felipe escaped her biggest threat that could have turned the game around.
“She did a great job, especially against Dioni, one of Kamehameha’s toughest hitters,” Ioane said. “It was a sigh of relief when she got her. She held her composure, made good pitches, and we’re super proud of her. We weren’t thinking of bringing anybody else in. We were going to ride here to the end.”
Eastside leadoff hitter Kayla Kodani, a Waiakea junior, batted 2 for 2 with a run and RBI, Quinn Waiki, a Hilo freshman, went 2 for 3 with two runs and an RBI, and Tristan Cullio, a Waiakea senior, batted 3 for 3 with two runs, and an RBI.
In 2019, Kealakehe won the BIIF championship, but there was no Division I state berth for the runner-up. So it’s admirable how good the Eastside hitters performed despite a long absence of competition.
Also, Ioane and his assistants Damien Silva and Jeremy Agpalza only recently started the Eastside club to get the players back in action.
No one paired hits for the Warriors. Kahiwa Ili, Lincoln, and Napua Ho each batted 1 for 3 with an RBI, Kawehi Ili was 1 for 1 with two runs. Martin and Rhian Ogawa each had a hit.
Emily Hora went two innings and took the loss. Anela Reyes followed and also pitched two innings.
The Warriors lost their ace Brooke Baptiste, a 2019 graduate. Aces are diamonds in the pitching circle because, unlike baseball, softball pitchers can throw every day and carry a team for years.
But at least, Kamehameha has youth on its side. Hora, Reyes, and right fielder Ogawa are just freshmen while left fielder Ho is a sophomore. They’ve got time to develop and form Kamehameha’s next nucleus.
“We have a very young team. It was a learning experience for them,” Kamehameha coach Akea Kiyuna said. “I have to give it to Eastside. They made the necessary adjustments. We did, too, but they did it sooner.”
Still, the Warriors flashed their defensive prowess. They made relay throws to gun down an Eastside runner at the plate and at third base.
“I have to give it to Kamehameha,” Ioane said. “We had a couple of hits to the fence, and with their relays, we got gunned down at the plate and third. Those relays had to be perfect and they were.
“But overall, it was an experience. We haven’t played for two seasons. We told the girls to just come out and have fun.”