Team Leaf defeats Team Rogue for first-ever Classic title


KAKAAKO—Team Leaf used a big second inning and strong pitching performance from Mililani's Joie Baker to defeat Team Rogue, 10-5, in the 15th Annual New City Nissan Goodwill Softball Classic at McKinley's Tiger Softball Stadium Sunday.

New City Nissan President and Maryknoll coach John Uekawa was grateful and thankful for the opportunity to put on the event this year due to last year's cancellation from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's a legacy we wanted to continue. Postponing the event for two years would kill the momentum we established for 15 years. We are so thankful to put this on at a great venue at McKinley," Uekawa said, who helped guide Maryknoll to an ILH title in the same venue a month ago.

Baker tossed 12 strikeouts for the game to help Leaf win the title for the first time in Classic history. She will be attending Western Washington University to play softball and is planning to major in biology.

In a shortened five-game Oahu Interscholastic Association season, Baker went 3-0 with 31 strikeouts, six walks, and posted a 1.05 ERA. Her best game came against Waianae with a 11 strike out performance and had a 10 strike out game against Kaiser to wrap up the spring season.

With limited practice time, the girls found ways to bond quickly and it showed in their Classic games.

"It's a blend and a whole lot of fun, but it's a competitive fun," Uekawa said.

"Playing with these girls is a great feeling," Baker said. "We bonded well off the bat. The key thing was to have fun. In the beginning it was slow, we were nervous and serious since we're on TV. We figured out we should have fun with what we have."

Mid-Pacific's Darian Kanno socked two home runs to give Team Rogue an early 3-0 lead after the second inning.

"Those were good hits. It was about being able to settle down and I knew my defense had my back," Baker said.

Team Leaf answered in the bottom of the second inning plating six runs. Haley Lyman (Kamehameha) brought in Keonaona Deboma (Nanakuli) for the first run and later scored on a wild pitch. Tiani Wayton (Punahou) tied the game at 3 and Logan-Ray Gaspar (Maryknoll) crushed a three RBI home run for a 6-3 lead.

Baker padded the lead with her solo homer and had eight strikeouts through four innings.

Team Leaf added three more runs as Kennedy Kila's (Mililani) deep shot to center drove in a pair of runs and Larchelle Tuifao (Kapolei) added another run with a single to make it 10-3.

Lovey Kepaa (Leilehua) led off with a triple and scored off of Kiliohu Hanawahine's (Kamehameha) base hit to trail, 10-4. Brianne McCabe's (Castle) double RBI brought in the final run of the night.

Baker recorded three strikeouts in the top of the seventh to end the game.

"It's crazy. Tui (Larchelle Tuifao) hits off home runs when we play Kapolei and now she's catching for me," laughed Baker.

Team Armada defeats Team Titan, 13-9 for third place

Team Titan jumped out to an early 3-0 lead following a two RBI home run shot from Leihulu Umiamaka (Leilehua), but Team Armada tied it up at 3 with a two RBI shot from Jordan Okumura (Mililani).

Liana Heshiki (Punahou) gave Titan a 5-3 lead with a two RBI home run over right field.

Armada plated five runs in the bottom of the third inning to make it 8-5 and never looked back. It also walked in a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth for a 10-5 lead.

Titan narrowed the gap with three runs in the top fifth led by Kelia Kamoku (Kamehameha) and Quinn Ozoa (Waialua) as it trailed, 10-8.

Kanilehua Pitoy (Roosevelt) led off the bottom fifth with a double and Ashaiya Lopes (Castle) launched a three RBI home run over the left field fence for a 13-8 lead.

Liliana Thomas (Maryknoll) hit a solo homer for the final run of the game.

Reach Brandon Ching at [email protected].

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