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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveApril 20, 2021, 10:52pm
Tue, Apr 20, 2021 @ [ 3:00 pm ]
W: Xaniah Toaiva-Talo L: Majesty Moisa
LEI: Jacelyn Kepaa 2-3 3 runs 5 rbi 2 HR; Xaniah Toaiva-Talo 4.0 IP 0 ER 5 KKAP: Majesty Moisa 3-3 run 4 rbi; Jerzie Liana 4.3 IP 7 ER 6 K
WAHIAWA — Ready, willing and able.
Jacelyn Kepaa was all of the above.
The Leilehua senior clubbed a pair of towering home runs and drove in five runs to lead her team to a 15-8 win over Kapolei on an overcast, but mostly dry Tuesday afternoon at Kaala Neighborhood Park.
It was the first day of a truncated softball season this spring for the Oahu Interscholastic Association, whose teams will play a seven-game schedule with no postseason or tournament. After a wait of more than 13 months since her junior season was cut short following just three games, Kepaa, for one, relished the opportunity to take the field once again.
"It was pretty cool," said Kepaa, who goes by her nickname, Lovey.
"It's just nice to be out here and get to play again for the first time in over a year and we're here to do it for the community, do it for each other and it's nice to be out here again," she added.
Kepaa had herself a nice day at the plate, to say the least. She reached base in her first four plate appearances — including an international walk — and came around to score three times in the win.
"We were all pretty anxious to play again. Everyone was a little jittery," said Kepaa, the third batter in the lineup for the Mules (1-0).
But if she had some jitters going, it wasn't evident.
On the very first pitch Kepaa saw in her first at-bat, she drilled a pitch from Kapolei's Majesty Moisa to the opposite field, well over the outfield fence in right-center.
"I've been just super anxious to get back on the field and I mean, I'm just looking for anything to hit so the ball was in my zone so I just went for it," said Kepaa, who gave her team a 3-0 first-inning lead with one swing of the bat.
Kepaa's opposite-field shot came on the heels of a five-pitch walk by Moisa of Kalia Kekahuna-Fernandez.
"She's got a good eye for the ball and it's just a matter of being on time and she just was on it," Leilehua coach Wendell Au said of Kepaa.
Two batters after Kepaa's three-run blast, Xaniah Toaiva-Talo belted a solo homer over the right field fence. The Mules went on to score three more runs in the bottom of the first, when they sent 11 batters to the plate. They had just two hits in the frame, but were aided by four walks and three errors by the Hurricanes (0-1).
Kapolei got right back into it in the top half of the third by scoring five runs — all of them with two outs — off of Kepaa, who started the game in the pitching circle for Leilehua. Two runs came home on Moisa's ground-ball single back up the middle that plated Ellie Ishikawa and Puakea Milbourne to cut the Mules' lead to 7-5.
The score held until the top of the fourth, when the Hurricanes took their only lead of the game. Milbourne led off with a single to left and moved to third on Moani Ioane's ground rule-double. On the very next pitch, Moisa — the fifth batter in the card — lined a single to the gap in right-center that allowed both baserunners to score and tied the game at 7.
After Kepaa hit Alewa Ena with a pitch to move Moisa into scoring position, she was replaced in the circle by Toaiva-Talo, who started the game at first base. Toaiva-Talo got the next two Hurricanes to strike out swinging, but Namahea Chun — the No. 9 hitter — stroked a single to right field that allowed Moisa, who was the responsibility of Kepaa, to score the go-ahead run from second.
Kepaa, the lone player remaining for Leilehua from its state championship-winning squad in 2018, said the lead change had little effect on her teammates because they knew the game was far from over at that point.
"Our thing is even if there's one inning left, half-an-inning left, there's still game and anything can happen, so we're just here to play and do our job," said Kepaa, who moved from pitcher to third base when Toaiva-Talo took over in the circle.
Kepaa and the Mules didn't wait very long to mount a response.
In the next half-inning — the bottom of the fourth — Torie Au led off with a double to left. Two batters later, Kepaa cranked a 1-0 offering from Hurricanes' reliever Jerzie Liana over the left field fence to put her team back ahead.
Kepaa said the Leilehua hitters had to adjust from the left-handed Moisa to the right-handed Liana.
"It was a big difference. Maj, the lefty, she had a lot of movement and then when Jerzie came in, the right-hander, it was a lot faster but still a lot of movement so we had to adjust our hands and get a little faster," Kepaa explained.
Adjust they did. The Mules went on to break it open with six insurance runs in the fifth, when they sent 11 batters to the plate and recorded six hits, including a pair of two-run singles by Dynestee-Marie Kanae-Huihui and Leihulu Umiamaka. Kapolei had two errors in the inning.
Toaiva-Talo got the win after logging four scoreless innings of three-hit ball in relief of Kepaa. The junior struck out five batters and walked two. She also batted 2 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored.
"She did super good," Kepaa said. "She came in and she did what she had to do. I mean, no doubt, she can do anything that she has to do and even on the offensive side she did super good, too."
Leading up to the game, Au said he and his coaching staff weighed giving the ball to Toaiva-Talo over Kepaa, but ultimately decided to put the ball in his most experienced player to start the contest.
"Returning back for the first game, we just wanted some sort of start and with Lovey, she's like the mother hen of the team. She just brings that leadership and they're going to play for her — and they did," Au detailed. "Even if it was a back-and-forth game, then we could get Xaniah ready and then follow that lead, but Lovey is definitely more than just a softball player; she's a mentor, a leader and all that."
Torie Au batted 3 for 5 with a couple of doubles and three runs scored and Daysha Paracuelles went 2 for 3 with a walk, RBI and two runs scored for the Mules, who amassed 13 total hits, including five extra-base hits.
Kapolei tallied 11 hits, led by Moisa's 3-for-3 day and Ishikawa's 3-for-4 effort. Moisa drove in four runs and scored once and Milbourne chipped in by going 2 for 4 with a double, walk, RBI and two runs scored.
The teams combined for 23 runs on 24 hits. All but four of the runs were earned.
The high hit totals and final scores are indicative of the overall trend in prep softball, Au said.
"A lot of these kids are just so powerful and the game has changed. I mean, pitching — yes, it's great to have pitching — but eventually the sticks just kind of catch up and hopefully we can change that soon, but it makes it exciting," he expressed.
Each team drew eight walks; Leilehua's pitchers recorded seven strikeouts to Kapolei's six.
Moisa was saddled with the loss after she allowed five earned runs in 1 2/3 innings pitched. Liana went the final 4 1/3 innings and surrendered seven earned runs off of 11 hits.
The Hurricanes committed five errors in all.
It was the third consecutive year that the teams opened the season against one another. Leilehua posted a 10-4 win over Kapolei in the first game of the 2018 season. The ‘Canes flipped the script a year ago, when they routed the Mules by a score of 12-1 in a five-inning, mercy-rule contest.
But that game might as well have been a lifetime ago, as far as Kepaa is concerned.
"I know it was on a couple of the girls' minds, but to me it's just a new year and everything is different and you just gotta play your game and adjust," she said.
Final score and victory aside, Au was just as happy as his players to have softball back once again.
"I'm just super happy for these kids — both teams — and the seniors especially," said Leilehua's fourth-year coach. "It would have been such a bad thing for them to lose out on last year and this year again, so just getting them out here is the main thing."
Both teams return to action Saturday at 10 a.m. Leilehua will visit Mililani, while Kapolei will host Campbell.
Fan attendance is not permitted at any games this season.
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