HHSAA Softball
Spartans pounce on Raiders early, break through for first state softball crown


Thu, May 12, 2022 @ [ 7:00 pm ]

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Maryknoll 3 000200561
Iolani 0 0 20000230

W: Jenna Sniffen    L: Allie Capello

IOL: Ailana Agbayani 1-4 run 2 rbi HR / 6.0 IP 2 ER 4 K
MS: Nellian McEnroe-Marinas 1-2 2 runs 2 rbi HR; Jenna Sniffen 7.0 IP 2 ER 10 K

MANOA — History made, championship clinched. 

Jenna Sniffen tossed a three-hit, 10-strikeout complete game and slugged a three-run, first-inning home run to lead Maryknoll to its first state title with its 5-2 win over defending champion Iolani Thursday night. 

A crowd of 1,097 fans at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium saw the Spartans (12-5) turn back the top-seeded Raiders (12-4) in the title game of the DataHouse/HHSAA Division I State Championships. 

Sniffen registered her third complete game in four nights for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu runners-up. The right-handed sophomore improved to 10-2 on the year and lowered her earned run average to 3.11. 

Maryknoll coach John Uekawa revealed after the game that Sniffen was dealing with shoulder soreness for most of the week. 

"She could not throw the ball overhand. She went to a specialist and I told her, ‘You know what, we'll throw you a hundred pitches,' and she ended up doing pretty damn good after that," Uekawa said of Sniffen, who was selected by the HHSAA and working media as the most outstanding player of the tournament. 

CJ Caraang | SL    Purchase image

Before she even threw a pitch, Sniffen had the luxury of a three-run lead. 

Carys Murakami led off the game by narrowly missing a home run to the opposite field. Instead it was a stand-up double for the CSUN-commit, who collected two of the Spartans' six hits for the game. 

"Carys does a very good job as a leadoff batter," Sniffen said. "She always gets things started for us and she's a very big reason why we get on the board all the time."

One batter after Nellian McEnroe-Marinas got on-base when she was hit by a pitch by Iolani starter Allie Capello, Sniffen belted an 0-1 pitch well over the fence, just right of center, to put her team ahead early, 3-0. 

"We knew that we were facing good pitching tonight and that's a really good team so we're very familiar with them and we had a game plan tonight and I think that we stuck to that really well and as a team we recorded a great win," Murakami said.

Iolani got on the board the second time through its lineup. In the bottom of the third, Lexie Tilton drew a two-out walk before Ailana Agbayani drove a 1-2 offering from Sniffen over the centerfield fence. 

The score held until the top half of the fifth inning, when Murakami worked a nine-pitch walk to lead off the frame. Two batters later, McEnroe-Marinas crushed a home run over the fence in left center. 

"Well, after my first at bat, I knew I was gonna get ‘em with the next one — I even told my coaches when I came in, ‘I got this, I got this. I'm gonna go out and I'm gonna hit one for you guys,' and I went out and that's exactly what I did," said McEnroe-Marinas, a junior shortstop who has given a verbal commitment to the University of Oklahoma. 

DataHouse/HHSAA Division I Softball All-Tournament Team
As selected by the HHSAA and working media

P — Taryn Irimata, Campbell
P — Ashley Ogata, Mililani
C — Jackie Kirkpatrick, Mililani
INF — Carys Murakami, Maryknoll
INF — Nellian McEnroe-Marinas, Maryknoll
INF — Kolbi Kochi, Mililani
INF — Allie Capello, Iolani
OF — Moani Ioane, Kapolei
OF — Kaylee Matsuda, Iolani
OF — Lexie Tilton, Iolani
U — Ailana Agbayani, Iolani

Most Outstanding Player: Jennalyn Sniffen, Maryknoll 

CJ Caraang | SL    Purchase image

Kennadie Tsue led off the Iolani-half of the fifth with a single on a ground ball up the middle, but Sniffen got the next three batters to strike out swinging to strand Tsue — who had stolen second and third — on base.

 Sniffen left another Raider runner out to dry — once again in scoring position — in the sixth inning. Allie Capello led off with a walk and moved to second on Harley Acosta's sacrifice bunt, but Sniffen got pinch hitter Kealohi Markham to strike out looking, then induced a ground ball off the bat of Mia Carbonell that resulted in the third out.

Iolani had the bottom of its order due up in the bottom of the seventh. Its first two batters reached base safely — Kaylee Matsuda via walk and Tsue reached on an error — but Sniffen got No. 9 batter Milla Fukuda to struck out on three pitches. Sniffen then struck out leadoff batter Lexie Tilton looking for the second out, before she fanned Agabayani on three pitches to close out the game.

"Ailana is a really good hitter and she's one of the spark plugs of that Iolani team, so to be able to get her really got our momentum going and it was just a really big thing for us to get rid of one of their top batters," said Sniffen, who also struck out Agbayani for the third out in the bottom of the fifth. 

Uekawa factored Agbayani's third AB into how he wanted Sniffen to pitch to the BYU-signee when she represented the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

 "I said (to Sniffen), ‘You know what, pitch to her, but don't pitch to her anything good,' and so we went outside, outside and because she struck out the time before that, I was thinking that she really wanted to put something in play and show us something, so she was trying her hardest to do something," Uekawa said. "It's a mental thing that we worked on that worked out to our advantage in that particular situation."

The result — in Maryknoll's very first trip to the state championship game — was historic in many ways. 

"It's like a dream come true," said Uekawa, the 17th-year coach of the Spartans. 

Along with Sniffen, Murakami and McEnroe-Marinas were named to the all-tournament team. 

"Today obviously was a very special game for us as a team and I knew that I needed to be a part of it and my team needed me to throw at least a couple innings, but in my head I knew that I was going to go the seven (innings) and just be a dog," Sniffen said. 

Including Saturday's state final, the Spartans and Raiders have faced off six times this spring; the teams split the season series, 3-3. 

All that familiarity certainly paid off for Uekawa's bunch.

"We felt a little bit more comfortable about knowing what their tendency was gonna be and on the other end of it, we also felt very comfortable that we could defend against it," he said. "It's one thing to watch (teams) on film, it's another to play against (them) and we had to experience it five different times."

The Raiders were seeking a second straight state title after they won it all in 2019. 

"It was just, you know, they jumped ahead, we tried to come back and we just didn't put the ball in play and we had our chances and we didn't take advantage of it," Iolani coach Benny Agbayani said.

As he did with frequency throughout the season, Agbayani opted to start Capello in the circle then back her up with her daughter, Ailana.

Capello, who is signed with the University of the Pacific, was the losing pitcher after she surrendered the first-inning homer to Sniffen. She was lifted for Agbayani to start the next inning. Agbayani finished out the game; She allowed two runs on four hits with four strikeouts and two walks in six innings of relief.

"You know, I'm going to live and die with my seniors and you know, it was a tough loss and you gotta accept it and it was just one of those games where the tables were turned that way and everything just happened for a reason," coach Agbayani said.

He said of his half-dozen seniors: "It's a special group, some of them I had since they were babies. It's pretty sad to see them go, but the future will be bright for them."

The Division I state final did not feature a team from the OIA West for the first time since 2013. 

"Hey, the ILH is tough. I mean, you come into the ILH, every game is a battle. You look at the ILH, you look at these two teams and it's awesome," Benny Agbayani said. "I mean, no one thought that it was gonna be both of us. They were saying the OIA teams, but we stood tall and two great teams went to battle today."

Agbayani, Capello, Matsuda and Hilton represented Iolani on the all-tournament team, which was also made up of Mililani's Ashley Ogata, Jackie Kirkpatrick and Kolbi Kochi, Campbell's Taryn Irimata and Kapolei's Moani Ioane.

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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