MANOA — Saturday night gave the Aiea softball team memories that it will cherish forever.
Aiea captured its first-ever state title with a 4-3 win over Saint Francis at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium in the DataHouse/HHSAA Division II championship game.
Senior left-handed pitcher Poamai Tuli fired a three-hitter with four strikeouts against the ninth-ranked Saints (10-6) to help Na Alii (15-0) finish as the lone unbeaten team in the state, regardless of division.
Tuli helped her own case with a double and a solo home run that gave Aiea its first lead of the game, 2-1, in the top of the third inning. All the runs that Tuli was tagged with were unearned.
"It feels great to have bring home that (championship) for the first time in school history," said Tuli, who was named the tournament's most outstanding player. "We fought hard throughout the season and I couldn't be any prouder."
It was also a redeeming win for Tuli and the rest of the senior class. Aiea held a 5-3 lead over eventual champion Nanakuli in the 2015 title game, but faltered down the stretch and gave up the game-winning run on a wild pitch.
As the designated visiting team, Na Alii were put in a similar situation in the final half-inning. Clinging on to a 4-3 lead, Saint Francis had the potential game-winning run on deck to start the bottom of the seventh.
Tuli got Sierrah Kupihea to pop out to second base for the first out of the bottom seventh, but walked pinch-hitter Kamaile Perreira with Saint Francis lead-off hitter Hailey Matsumura due up.
Based on how the game went, Saint Francis couldn't have wanted anyone better at the plate. In her first two plate appearances of the day, Matsumura reached on a walk and an error to score the Saints' first two runs of the game. However, Matsumura grounded into a double play and Aiea came out victorious.
"It's very gratifying for us, that they were able to come back (to this game) and get this victory," said Aiea coach Alan Higuchi.
Senior shortstop Chantelle Shimabukuro was responsible for turning the double play on the final sequence of the game. It was her first double play of the season, and more importantly, it clinched Aiea's first-ever state title.
"It's too good to be true honestly," said Shimabukuro.
The D2 title game was a back-and-forth affair that featured three lead changes and two ties. Saint Francis scored first in the opening stanza after Matsumura scored on a fielding error by Shimabukuro. Aiea countered with a solo home run by Trinity Atuatasi in the top of the second to make it 1-1.
Na Alii took its first lead of the game one inning later when Tuli hit a two-out home run to deep right-center on Saint Francis starter Kailee Mahelona. Kupihea relieved Mahelona after the second deep shot and pitched the remainder of the game for the Saints.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Saint Francis tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the frame. Matsumura reached on a fielding error by second baseman Tia Ueoka to start the half-inning and would come home on Sammie Ofoia's sac fly to left field.
Aiea regained the lead for good in the top of the fourth when it sent seven batters to the plate. Jaenah Padasdao reached on a throwing error by Matsumura that pulled first baseman Skye Ah Yat off the bag to put the go-ahead run on base. Na Alii then drew three consecutive walks to score Padasdao on Jhermaine Ea's plate appearance. Ueoka drove in Atuatasi one batter later to give Aiea its final run of the game.
2017 DataHouse/HHSAA D2 Softball All Tournament Team
C – Testimoni Tavale, AIea
IF – Skye Ah Yat, St. Francis
IF – Hailey Matsumura, St. Francis
IF – Sammie Ofoia, St. Francis
IF – Chantelle Shimabukuro, Aiea
OF – Tyra Alao, Kapaa
OF – Trinity Atuatasi, Aiea
OF – Joerdan Lovell, St. Francis
UTIL – Baileigh Susak, Radford
P – Sierrah Kupihea, St. Francis
P – Kailey Rivera, Kapaa
Most Outstanding Player – Poamai Tuli, Aiea
Na Alii bounced back from its errors and retired the next six Saint Francis batters before running into some trouble in the sixth.
Ofoia led off the half-inning with a double to left-center and advanced to third on Jordyn Lono's sacrifice bunt. Aiea got Ah Yat to groundout to shortstop for the second out of the frame, but a passed ball on the next at bat allowed Ofoia to come home for the final run of the game.
Saint Francis coach Randy Langsi gave nothing but praise for Aiea after the game.
"It was a great game, it came down to the wire," said Langsi. "Congratulate Aiea. They deserve it and they're tough. We knew it was going to be a tough battle against Tuli. She played a heck of a game."
Kupihea was charged with the loss, giving up two unearned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work.
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