MANOA – No. 1 Kapolei used power and finesse to overcome a 5-1 fifth-inning deficit to rally by No. 6 Pearl City, 6-5, in eight innings in Thursday's semifinals of the DataHouse Division I state softball tournament.
The top-seeded Hurricanes (15-3) will take on defending state champion and Ewa plain rival Campbell (17-1) in an all-Oahu Interscholastic Association Western Division finale for the 40th title 7 p.m. Friday at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. Kapolei is 1-1 in title games, their last being in 2005 and their only championship in 2004. Campbell, making its third consecutive appearance in the title game, is 2-2.
Dallas Pollard-Brownell's single off the glove of Chargers' pitcher Tyanna Kaaialii scored Sadie Kapaku-You from third base with the winning run with one out in the bottom of the eighth sent the Hurricanes flying out of the dugout after the dramatic finish.
The Hurricanes used three home runs to close their deficit and a squeeze play to tie the game in regulation before winning the game with an infield hit.
"Feel? I don't feel my legs," Kapolei coach Tony Saffery said with a laugh. "The kids did awesome."
The Hurricanes were the West's third seed and went on to win their first OIA crown since 2005. Saffery is hoping that same magic is back.
"I hope so and we're here," he said. "That's going to be the message that it's been a long time coming. We're here. Now, do we want to be passive?.This is the last game of the season. I just want them to play with no regrets."
Kapaku-You, who labored early in the game, settled down after Hailey-Alexis Yamaguchi's RBI single in the top of the fifth opened the Chargers' lead to 5-1. She retired the last 10 batters in a row to aid in the comeback.
"There was a lot of pressure, but we didn't get down on ourselves, tried to stay up," said Kapaku-You, who homered for the Hurricanes' first run in the fourth and doubled to lead off the eighth. "We stayed positive throughout the whole game and my team pulled through and we got the win."
Kapaku-You led off the bottom of the eighth with a double down the left-field corner. Laugatausala Pedebone, who hit her tournament-leading third homer that closed the gap to 5-4 in the sixth, was intentionally walked. The runners advanced on Lili Kaimi-Montira's sacrifice. The Chargers brought center fielder Noel Saunders and set three infielders covering the left side and middle. All of the infielders were playing in to prevent the winning run from scoring. Pollard-Brownell swung at Kaaialii's first pitch and hit off the pitcher's glove, allowing Kapaku-You to score and end the game.
The Hurricanes kept their title hopes alive in the bottom of the seventh. Down 5-4, Kaaialii hit Holiday Ribac to start the inning. Raina McKean then reached on third baseman Hope Casarez's fielding error fielding on the sacrifice to put runners at first and second. The runners advanced on Shaycelynn Hoohuli's sacrifice. Makana Meyers' squeeze scored Ribac with the tying run and moved McKean to third, but Ciena Kauhi lined out to third to force extra innings.
"I believed in myself and trusted my team that we could do it, so I told myself I had to execute and I did," said Meyers, who said she never had to squeeze home a run before. "I felt great afterwards."
Kaaialii had baffled the Hurricanes through five innings. She ended up being charged with six runs, five earned, seven hits and three walks in 7 1/3 innings.
"We struggled with her finding our timing," Saffery said. "She threw more off-speed balls more than I've seen her throw, not only with us, but other teams. Apparently, she's working on it and you know what? That's her job, to disrupt our timing, right? That she did."
Saffery said his hitters were taking pitches over the plate and flailing away at pitches away.
"She throw a pitch at the heart of the plate, we have to take advantage," Saffery said.
That the Hurricanes would do.
Down 3-0, it was Kapaku-You who began chipping away. Kapolei was held hitless through three innings before Kapaku-You drilled a homer to center to start the fourth. But Kaaialii retired the next six batters in a row and Pearl City increased its lead to 5-1 after five.
In the bottom of the sixth, Meyers led off with a double to left-center and scored on Kauhi's two-run homer to dead center to pull Kapolei to 5-3. An out later, Pedebone homered to left to make it 5-4, but Kaaialii retired the next two batters to preserve her lead until the fateful seventh and eighth innings.
Pearl City jumped on Kapaku-You quickly. Kaaialii was looking like a one-woman show when she gave herself the lead with a two-run double in the second inning. She then added a sacrifice fly in the fourth to make it 3-0.
After Kapolei scored in the bottom of the third to make it 3-1, the Chargers insured their lead with two in the fifth. Kristin Frost led off with a single and stole second before Darian Obara walked. Saunders reached when she grounded into a force out at second that moved Frost to third. Saunders then stole second to put runners at second and third. Kylie Tasaki then reached on shortstop Pedebone's fielding error that allowed Frost to scored and Saunders to take third, where she scored on Yamaguchi's single before Casarez struck out.
"I believed in my team," Meyers said of the team's comeback. "I told the team we have to believe in each other and have confidence."
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