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Kaaialii battled through shaky start Saturday




It was, by her own admission, far from Tyanna Kaaialii's best performance, but it was still good enough.

The Pearl City ace gutted her way through a hard-fought 2-1 win over a pesky Kapolei squad Saturday morning in a much-anticipated quarterfinal of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I softball tournament at Sand Island State Recreational Park.

Kaaialii fired a complete-game and allowed just three hits along the way, but struggled with her command at times. She issued six walks — two shy of her season high — including three free passes coming with two outs in the inning.

"I could definitely feel that I wasn't at my best today, but it was a team win," Kaaialii said. "Everyone did their job when they needed to and we came out with a win."

It almost didn't play out that way, however, for the Chargers.

Kaaialii, who is 10-2 on the year with a 2.20 ERA, was sitting on a loss through five innings. The Hurricanes held a 1-0 lead for much of the contest after Kiley Ozaki's home run to right center to leadoff the top of the second, but it ended up being the only run Kaaialii surrendered.

Kaaialii tipped her cap to Ozaki, the Hurricanes' junior first baseman.

"She hit a good pitch," Kaaialii said. "I pitched my pitch, it went where it was supposed to, but she put her bat on the ball and she had a nice stroke, so I give her props."

After the Ozaki homer, Kaaialii went on to retire six in a row and eight of the next nine Pearl City batters. She walked a pair of batters in both the fourth and fifth innings, but worked her way out of the jam each time — stranding all four base runners in scoring position.

"I listened to my coaches, especially coach Roland — he's my dad and he's the pitching coach," Kaaialii said. "He tells me what I'm doing wrong, what I can do better and what I'm doing right and he helps me to correct things every inning."

Kaaialii said her dad pointed out a flaw in her delivery after a few innings.

"A lot of it was my body," she said. "I was kind of all over the place with my body, and being as short as I am and as big of an avalanche of a mound it is, I had to make a bigger adjustment than most taller pitchers wouldn't have to."

Kaaialii's batterymate, junior catcher Hailey-Alexis Yamaguchi, was happy with the way her pitcher compensated over the course of the game.

"It was good," Yamaguchi said. "Well, it was a rough start, but all she had to do was make adjustments, hit spots and it showed out there that she made an adjustment and it was good."

The Chargers were still in search of their first run in the bottom of the sixth. They managed to put runners at the corners with two outs and Yamaguchi, the fifth batter in the card, due up to the plate.

Yamaguchi singled on an 0-1 pitch from Kapolei pitcher Sadie Kapaku-You to score the tying run in Kylie Tasaki and give her team new life.

"It definitely made my juices start flowing a little bit more," Kaaialii said of Yamaguchi's RBI-single to left.

Kaaialii then stepped into the batter's box and helped her own cause. She looped an 0-2 offering from Kapaku-You into short right field to allow Darian Obara to score the go-ahead run from third.

Pearl City managed just four hits in the win. Three of them came in the sixth inning.

"It wasn't our sharpest game offensively, as you can see by the stats," Chargers coach Chad Obara said. "We didn't hit the ball very well — I don't think we hit anything hard at all."

Kapaku-You, an All-Hawaii First Team utility selection last year, took the loss despite a solid effort in the circle.

"It was hard for us because when we go in the (batter's) box, she has that rhythm and I guess that rhythm made her do good," Yamaguchi said of Kapaku-You. "We just had to slow the game down, so it could go our way instead of going hers."

The game was originally scheduled for Thursday, but was twice postponed due to heavy rains. While Kapolei played in Wednesday's first round of the tournament, Pearl City had not played a game in a week — since it's regular-season finale against Mililani.

"Our struggles today might have been because of the two-day break or whatever it was. We didn't get to practice or anything, so it could be that, but whatever the case was, Sadie is tough. She pitches well and they played a good ball game," Chad Obara said.

Pearl City, which secured a berth in next week's state tournament with the win, will take on Campbell in the semifinals of the OIA tournament Monday at McKinley.

First pitch between the top-ranked Chargers (10-2) and the fourth-ranked Sabers (9-3) is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will follow the early semifinal between No. 2 Mililani (9-3) and No. 6 Roosevelt (10-2) at 5 p.m.



Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].


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