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Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveMay 11, 2018, 12:07am
Thu, May 10, 2018 @ [ 7:00 pm ]
W: Kennedy Ishii L: Chloe Sales
CAMP: Alesia Ranches 2-4 run rbi; Nadia Delzer 2.0 IP 1 ERPUN: Bailey Akimseu 2-4 run 2 rbi dbl HR; Kennedy Ishii 7.0 ER 3 ER 7 K
MANOA — Call ‘em the Buffanblu bombers.
Sixth-ranked Punahou pounded out 14 hits — highlighted by Bailey Akimseu's towering two-run sixth-inning home run — to back pitcher Kennedy Ishii's complete-game effort en route to a convincing 11-3 semifinal win over three-time defending champion Campbell at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium Thursday night.
The unseeded Buffanblu, who finished second in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, won their third game in as many days to improve to 12-5. They will play No. 3 Leilehua — which defeated ninth-ranked Mililani, 13-0, in five innings in the other semifinal — in Friday's 7 p.m. title game of the DataHouse Division I Softball State Championships.
The top-ranked Sabers saw their eight-game win streak snapped to fall to 13-4. They suffered their first state tournament loss since May 9, 2014, when they lost to Mililani, 2-1, in the title game.
Punahou posted double-digit runs for the third straight day. Seven different players recorded a hit and all nine starters in the batting order reached base safely at least once Thursday.
"At first we (felt like underdogs), but then we talked right before the game and I think we started to believe that we are the better team and we just had to trust in each other," said Ishii, a senior pitcher. "We looked at the statistics, we looked at our batting averages and we broke everything down and we realized that player for player we can compete with them."
The Buffanblu were aggressive in the batter's box and on the base paths, where five different players combined for seven stolen bases, including two apiece by leadoff batter Maya Matsubara and Kawailana Mielke.
"I think the whole thinking was that we didn't want to come in here thinking about how (Campbell) is three-time state champs and get intimidated. We were going to attack with the bats, we were going to attack on the bases and we were just going to let the girls play, so we didn't want them to hold back in any way, so we pushed aggressive base running," Punahou first-year coach Boy Eldredge said.
The teams appeared to be evenly matched early on.
Punahou struck first with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning on a Mielke two-out single to score Matsubara and Ishii. Campbell answered in the bottom half of the frame with Anastasia Iosia's RBI-single to plate Trinity Favela and Zoie Recolan's bases-loaded walk to push across Alesia Ranches.
"It was a little bit of a shaky start. I think that was somewhat nerves and they squared up the ball pretty well, (but) my team had my back and they made great plays," Ishii said.
D'Asha Saiki's RBI-single to score Eri Mizuguchi gave the Buffanblu the lead for good in the top of the second.
Mielke led off the third with a four-pitch walk. She stole second before taking third on a Chloe Sales' wild pitch and scoring on a Campbell fielding error. Matsubara hit a two-out single to score Briahni Alejo for Punahou's second run of the inning.
The lead grew to 7-2 after Punahou pushed across two more runs in the top of the fifth. Ashanti Martinez scored on a Mizuguchi double and Alejo came home on a Matsubara sacrifice fly.
Eldredge said his team picked up momentum with each inning.
"We did and when we're playing regularly, we kind of got into this (hot streak) towards the end of the regular season in the ILH," Eldredge said. "We were playing at this level and then we have long breaks where we kind of lose a little bit of this mojo, but it's nice to be playing like this — playing back to back to back — and we've got one more so hopefully we'll show up tomorrow and play good again."
The Buffanblu kept the mojo going in the top of the sixth, when they batted around and scored four insurance runs. After Saiki led off with a sharply-lined single back up the middle, Akimseu crushed the first pitch she saw from Sales for a Jocelyn Alo-like blast some 40-plus feet over the fence and into netting beyond center field.
"I saw it coming straight down the pipe and I remember my coach just saying right before I went to bat, he was like, ‘Bailey, if it's right there, just go for it,' and that's exactly what I did," said Akimseu, a 5-foot-10 senior.
Akimseu said being able to take in Campbell's quarterfinal win over Pearl City Wednesday night helped formulate Thursday's game plan against Sales, the Sabers' ace.
"We were watching her last night and we knew that she was throwing outsides all day, so we made our adjustment to move up on the plate, extend our hands and go for the outside pitch," Akimseu said. "She's been throwing first-pitch strikes and we were just like, ‘we're going to go for the first pitch because it's always a strike.' "
After Akimseu's home run, Mizuguchi's RBI-single and a Matsubara RBI-fielder's choice closed out the scoring for Punahou.
Campbell scored a single run in the bottom of the sixth on Alesia Ranches' one-out RBI-single to score Caisha Nunes.
Sales, who is now 10-2 on the season, was charged with the loss after she was tagged for 10 runs — eight of them earned — on 11 hits with four walks and one strikeout in five-plus innings of work. It was her first loss since lasting just 2 2/3 innings in an 11-3 loss at Kapolei on March 29.
"Chloe struggled a lot today. I really don't know. I don't know if it's the big game, but I had to settle her down at one point," Campbell coach Shag Hermosura said of his sophomore pitcher. "I'm not using (us being) young as an excuse, but the experience she's picking up now I think is going to benefit her in the future. The lack of experience now playing in a big venue like this, it's a little nerve-racking for her, but she battled and she'll be all right."
Ishii scattered eight hits and three walks with a season-high seven strikeouts to improve to 8-3 on the year. The 5-foot-4 right-hander logged her second complete-game victory in three days.
"Oh my gosh, Kennedy did amazing. I think this was the best I've seen her pitch all season and her confidence is just growing and you can just see it in her face on the field," Akimseu said. "Everyone has her back and I'm glad that she's trusting her team more often and letting the girls hit and that's what she needs to do and I hope tomorrow she brings it again."
Ishii stranded nine Campbell base runners and changed speeds effectively, especially in the latter parts of the contest.
"I think it was mainly just hit my spots and I think we held off the change-up until I think mid-way we started throwing the change-up as a bit of a surprise," Ishii said.
The victory leaves the Buffanblu one win away from just its second state softball crown in program history. The only other time they won it all was in 2013, when they also finished at ILH runners-up and had to win four games in four days at the state tournament.
"From day one we looked at these girls in the eye and we told them that they are state champion material and they had to believe, but they've never been there before — we haven't even gotten close to an ILH championship in a few years — so every step of the way they started to believe a little bit more, a little bit more, so it got to a point now where there's only two of us left and I just asked them, ‘Do you guys believe?' and they're in it. They believe and they know that they've got obviously a great chance to walk away as champions tomorrow, so we're in a good place. The momentum is good, we keep on swinging the bats well, Kennedy is throwing the ball well so we're in a good place," Eldredge said.
Ishii, for one, can't wait for first pitch Friday.
"It was definitely a heartbreak when we lost that ILH (championship game to Maryknoll), but we're here and we're going to champs and what more can you ask for?," she said. "This is what we've been playing for our whole lives, so we're really excited to be here."
The pair were recognized as ScoringLive's Distinguished Athlete Award winners on May 19.
The Falcons baseball coach compiled 159 wins and six state tournament appearances.
Mid-Pacific's Young and Damien's Donahue led their respective teams to ILH championships.
Countryman was leading scorer on Red Raiders team that put up 127 goals in regular season.
Punahou's Dillyn Lietzke named D1 MVP; Saige Ogden, Andie Perreira share D2 top honors.
Moanalua, Mililani and Pearl City take home Player of the Year honors.