MANOA — After a one-year hiatus, Aiea is going back to the ‘ship.
Testimoni Tavale and Trinity Atuatasi each belted a third-inning home run to back Poamai Tuli's complete-game five-hitter to help Aiea rally to a 10-4 win over Kapaa in the semifinals of the DataHouse/HHSAA Division II Softball State Championships Friday afternoon.
A crowd of about 250 at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium saw second-seeded Na Alii rally from an early two-run deficit to improve to 14-0 on the season. They will try for their first state crown Saturday, when they face ninth-ranked Saint Francis at 4:30 p.m.
Na Alii rapped out 12 hits to overcome five errors. Nine of those base knocks came in the third and fourth innings, when they did all of their scoring.
A trio of Aiea errors led to two Kapaa runs in the bottom of the second inning, but Aiea had an answer in the top of the third. Chantelle Shimabukuro led off the frame with a single and moved to third on a Tuli double to left-center.
Two batters later, Tavale worked the count full before fouling off a couple of pitches. She then belted the eighth pitch of the at bat from Kapaa starter Kailey Rivera deep over the left field fence for a three-run home run that put Aiea ahead for good.
"I was waiting on it and I saw it coming right down the middle so I just swung and I knew it was gone," said Tavale, a senior catcher.
Tavale worked a seven-pitch walk in her first plate appearance in the second inning.
"That helped," Tavale said. "Fouling off a lot of balls helped me see a lot of the pitcher's different pitches. I got about all of her pitches, I think."
Tavale, the clean-up hitter, also singled in the fourth inning and finished 2 for 3 at the dish.
"Lately she's been swinging a hot bat," Aiea coach Alan Higuchi said. "Getting to see a lot of pitches is always positive for the hitter as far as getting their timing down and seeing the different locations on the pitches, but she did have a good at bat."
Two batters after Tavale's home run, Na Alii expanded their lead to 5-0 on a two-run homer to left-center by Atuatasi.
"They're clutch, and we always talk about how hitting is contagious and once we got it going, everybody seemed to keep it going, so that was really big for us," Aiea hitting coach Mark Shimabukuro said.
Tuli benefitted from a spectacular defensive play by left fielder Tiana Ono for the second out of the bottom of the third inning. Leipua Kaui pulled a 1-0 pitch from Tuli down the line in foul territory, which Ono tracked down and gloved just as she collided into the fencing.
"It gives us a lot of hope because seeing Tiana make that catch really pumped us up because she's really fast and we honestly weren't even sure she was going to make that catch, but she did," Tavale said.
Na Alii doubled up their lead with a five-run fourth inning. Mikelle Gonzales drove in Tiamay Ueoka and Chantelle Shimabukuro with a single. Courtesy runner Gafaolaua Aie then scored on a fielder's choice and Gonzales crossed the plate on a double steal to make it a 9-2 lead. Aiea added another run in the inning on Ono's two-out single to score Jaenah Padasdao from second.
Kapaa plated a pair of runs in the fifth inning after back-to-back RBI-doubles with Rivera and Tia Takasaki, but could get no closer.
Rivera was the losing pitcher. She was charged with three runs on four hits in 2 1/3 innings of work. Kaui gave up seven runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings of relief.
Tuli allowed just one earned run. She struck out six and walked two batters to improve to 11-0 on the year with an 0.88 ERA.
"We made too many errors first of all, but she was excellent. I think you could say it was her usual game, so we just have to tighten up our defense, make the routine plays and make it a little bit easier for her and keep her pitch count down, but it is what it is; It's part of the game," Higuchi said.
Aiea reached the state final in 2015, but lost to Nanakuli. Last year, it exited in the quarterfinals with a 13-0 loss to Kamehameha-Hawaii.
"Any time you can be in the big game it's a great opportunity for the girls to have the experience of a lifetime and it's all you can ask for, opportunities in life to get something done and maybe have a legacy for yourself, as far as the team and the individual," Higuchi said.
Kapaa will meet top-seeded Kamehameha-Hawaii for third place at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
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