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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveMarch 31, 2021, 10:38pm
Wed, Mar 31, 2021 @ [ 4:00 pm ]
W: Alyssa Nakagawa L: Brenna Yoshioka
MPI: Samantha Taga 3-5 2 runs 5 rbi 2 HR; Alyssa Nakagawa 5.0 IP 4 ERSHA: Lea-Eileen Krainer 3-3 2 runs 5 rbi HR
MANOA — Samantha Taga slugged a pair of home runs and drove in five runs to help Mid-Pacific pull away from visiting Sacred Hearts with a 19-9 win in the season opener for both teams Wednesday afternoon.
The game was called with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning due to the 10-run differential mercy rule after Taga's three-run dinger over the outfield fence in left-center.
"It feels so great," Taga said of the walk-off long ball. "Right when I hit it I knew it was going over, so that just felt really good."
The Owls (1-0) began their 2021 Interscholastic League of Honolulu campaign how their 2020 season ended: with a mercy-rule victory over the Lancers (0-1). But that game — which Mid-Pac won by a score of 20-1 in five innings — and this one didn't have a whole lot of similarities.
At least not for the first three-and-a-half innings.
The teams were tied at nine apiece entering the bottom of the fourth inning, but that's when the home team became not so hospitable.
The Owls sent 13 batters to the plate in the frame and plated seven runs on six hits. They were aided by three walks and three Sacred Hearts' errors.
"I think they definitely came out to compete today and they made it difficult for us," Taga said of the Lancers. "I think they've truly grown from past years before."
The visitors twice held the lead in the early innings. They scored three runs on three hits — highlighted by Lea-Eileen Krainer's two-run single past the first baseman — right off the bat in the top of the first. The Owls answered with four runs in the bottom of the first, including a two-run homer off the bat of Taga, their clean-up hitter.
"I was just thinking, ‘look for something good to hit, think middle-in and just drive it anywhere,' and she gave me right down the middle and I just swung," said Taga, who also had a two-home run game in a 10-7 win over defending Division I state champion Iolani last year.
Mid-Pacific coach Aiko Gojo said that her power-hitting centerfielder has picked up this year where she left off last.
"Oh yeah. From last season she was hitting the ball hard. Last year we played Iolani and she hit two home runs against them, so we know she has the capability, the power, the talent," Gojo remarked.
But the Lancers pushed back in the top of the third, when six straight batters reached base and four came around to score— three of them, however, on errors. The lone RBI on the inning belonged to Krainer, who singled to center with one out to score the tying run in Kylyn Parker.
Sacred Hearts held a 7-4 lead after the top of the third, but its lead was short-lived as the Owls pushed across five runs in the bottom of the frame. They pull back ahead, 9-7, on Jenna Wong's three-run home run over the center field fence.
Wong also led off the game with a double — one of six Mid-Pac hitters to record at least two hits Wednesday — and scored three times in the win.
"Jenna is just a competitor and she just wants to be out here to play her heart out and I think that's what makes her such a good player," Taga said of her fellow senior and the Owls' shortstop. "She just plays with good heart and she just works really hard in practice, so I think it shows on the field how good of a player she is and off the field as a person, too."
Still, the Lancers did not go quietly. Keilin Brunn worked a four-pitch walk off of Mid-Pac starting pitcher Alyssa Nakagawa to lead off the top of the fourth. However, on the very next pitch that Nakagawa threw, Parker hit a ground ball to second baseman Zoe Oshiro, who teamed with Wong and first baseman Kauilani Chun for a dazzling 4-6-3 double play.
That proved to be pivotal as just two batters later, Krainer belted a two-run homer to the opposite field that hit the scoreboard.
Lancers second-year coach Keicha Brunn called the home run "the highlight of the game, I think.
"Sacred Hearts is small and from where we were last year to where we are now, the girls need small wins and those small wins definitely add up and to me, that was a big win for us, so we can definitely use that as momentum to move forward. Definitely," she noted.
Krainer, a senior left fielder, has dedicated herself to softball after also playing volleyball previously, Brunn pointed out.
She added, "Lea's a great kid, she works really hard. When I first met her, she was not committed to softball. She played both volleyball and softball and I had a good talk with her. I had rules when I came on board and it's just that she stuck to what I was saying and definitely that was an emotional moment for me, as well as her. She's worked really hard and it's nice to see some great results."
Krainer batted 3 for 3 with five RBIs and two runs scored in the loss. Parker went 2 for 3 with a pair of runs scored.
Mid-Pac pull ahead for good in the bottom half of the fourth inning, when Jasmine Allen led off by reaching second on a two-base fielding error in right field by the Lancers. The very next batter, Chun, doubled to left, which easily scored Allen from second to break the tie and give the Owls a 10-9 lead. Hailey Brunn drove in Chun with a single to left and two batters later, Ava Puuohau plated a pair of runs with her single back up the middle to stretch it to a 13-9 advantage. Nakagawa then helped her own cause with a two-run triple to right to break it open.
Nakagawa, as well as her batterymate, Puuohau, are in their fourth varsity season for the Owls. That goes for Taga, Wong, Oshiro and Darian Kanno, too. Kanno recently returned from a trip and had yet to complete her 10-day quarantine before Wednesday's game.
"We're competing," Gojo said of her veteran-laden team. "We're competing. Of course, we're so grateful to be able to play, but when we go out there, we're going to play hard."
As a junior in the COVID-interrupted 2020 season, Kanno pitched 18 of Mid-Pac's 20 total innings. Her return is sure to complement Nakagawa's abilities in the circle, but Taga, along with junior Avery Mahoe — who started Wednesday's game in left field — add further depth at pitcher for the Owls.
As for Nakagawa, she scattered eight hits and two walks with the game's only strikeout — swinging, to cap a 10-pitch top of the second — in her five innings of work. Five of the nine runs she allowed were unearned as Mid-Pac committed five errors.
"I think Alyssa did great," Taga said. "She relied on her defense, she threw strikes, even though the two walks, it didn't really hurt us much — even with the errors and everything — but I think she did really great. She relied on her defense, the defense wasn't there at times but we picked it up at the end, so I think that was good."
Brenna Yoshioka was the pitcher of record for the Lancers. She allowed 15 runs, a dozen of them earned, on 12 hits. Yoshioka walked five and struck out none in 3 1/3 innings before she gave way to Jolie Heresa, who surrendered the final four Mid-Pac runs in one-plus inning of work.
Yoshioka is one of a handful of players from Hawaii Baptist, Hanalani and University Lab who are first-year members of the Sacred Hearts' team. All previously played for PAC-5, but the Wolfpack are not fielding a team this spring.
"It's definitely amazing to have Brenna on the team, as well as Miki (Mochizuki); it gives us a deeper line for our pitching," Brunn said of the pair of HBA students. "She's a good kid, very good kid. Smart kid. She's actually one of our team captains."
Brunn attributed Yoshioka's struggles Wednesday to nerves.
"I don't count that as a bad game. We had some nerves. We definitely need to work on some things, but I think she did an amazing job on holding runners," said Brunn, whose team committed nine errors.
Seeing as how her team doesn't have a field to practice on, Brunn, a 2010 alumnae of the school, is taking the season-opening loss in stride.
"We usually practice at City (and County of Honolulu) parks, at Crane and Ala Wai, but they're not available to us, so right now we practice on campus anywhere we can," she noted.
Brunn played softball for Sacred Hearts under former coach and athletic director Wade Okamura. She saw her first year at the helm of the program come to an abrupt end last March. In the time that has passed, however, it is evident that the Lancers have improved.
"We definitely made a lot of strides," she said. "It definitely was a big help that PAC-5 had to opt out. Sacred Hearts is a smaller school and so we work with what we have and this year we are able to get some talented players and fill the gaps for us. It is hard because we don't have a field due to corona, so we have to be creative. But for our first game and not having a field, I think we did OK."
As for the Owls, with eight seniors on the roster and a junior season that they will never get back, the time to win is now.
"I think since we lost last season and it was such a motivator for us this season because we wanted to get back what we lost," Taga said. "I think just that drive, that motivation that we carry in us is what will get us through this season."
Following a span of 385 days since their last game — the lopsided win over Sacred Hearts on March 11th of last year — Gojo reflected on what her players have endured during this pandemic.
"I'm super happy for the girls that they could get back on the field and compete," she said. "After waiting for so long, (through) the uncertainty if we're going to have a season or not, all the sports that got canceled — sport after sport after sport — so I'm so happy for them that they could get back on the field."
Mid-Pac returns to the diamond Saturday morning, when they host Iolani at 10 o'clock. Sacred Hearts visits Kamehameha at the same time that day. The Warriors opened their ILH season with a 15-6 win over visiting Punahou Wednesday.
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