ILH Softball
No. 2 Maryknoll denies No. 4 Punahou to punch ticket to states


  



Thu, May 2, 2024 @ [ 3:30 pm ]


FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Punahou 0 020030573
Maryknoll 0 1 0412X892

W: Kasi Cruz    L: Paige Brunn    SV: Jennalyn Sniffen

MS: Sheyzhelle Iokia 3-4 2 runs 3 rbi dbl HR; Kasi Cruz 6.0 IP 4 ER
PUN: Lexi Hinahara 1-4 run 2 rbi HR; Paige Brunn 5.6 IP 5 ER


SAND ISLAND — For the first time since 2022, the Spartans are back in the state tournament.

No. 2 Maryknoll withstood a late Buffanblu rally in the sixth inning and closed the door on No. 4 Punahou, 8-5, in the ILH Division I double-elimination playoff game at Sand Island District Park Thursday.

The Spartans (12-5 overall) redeemed their 7-5, nine inning loss to the Buffanblu on Tuesday and clinched the ILH's second state tournament berth. Maryknoll advances to face Kamehameha-Kapalama on Monday for the overall ILH championship and seeded berth for the DataHouse/HHSAA Softball State Championships starting on May 14.

"It's been a season of ups and downs. This is really rewarding for my teammates and I. We've gone through our struggles, we've gone through adversity and it feels right to be peaking that the right time," said Jennalyn Sniffen, one of five Maryknoll seniors.

The Buffanblu, the hottest team in the elimination tournament, saw its season come to an end with a 12-6 record. Punahou won four-straight, knocking out Mid-Pacific, Iolani, and Kamehameha before handing Maryknoll its first loss of the tournament on Tuesday.

"Punahou is a damn good team and I'm sorry they didn't make it. Because of it they had the momentum going, so we knew as a fact we had to play our game. As far as Punahou is concerned, they are a threat every time. We were 3-3 and bottom line it could've been anybody's game. But right at the end, they were making a comeback," Maryknoll coach John Uekawa said.

In their six meetings, the teams split the series, 3-3.

"Backs to the wall all year. We have a tough first round and the second round we come out and beat Kamehameha, Maryknoll and we come right back and put ourselves in it. We put ourselves in a place where we could win the last game of the season and play for the championship and we shoot that. We have to come the backside in this tournament and you think that'll end it for us, but these girls showed up. We beat Mid-Pacific, Iolani, Kamehameha, Maryknoll to get to this point. Not only the resiliency on the field but just game after game and how the season played out. The girls kept showing up and playing," Punahou coach Boy Eldredge said.

Brandon Ching | SL    Purchase image

Freshman and starting short stop Sheyzhelle Iokia drove in three runs with a double and a home run.

"I think we get more pressure, but I start four freshman. Basically they're now sophomores. These kind of games make them grow even more. Gives them confidence. They just make the plays on that side of it. On the bat side of it, we just wanted them to swing at their pitch. They did that in that inning. Look at Shey (Iokia), if you go back to all the games that we've played, she hit that home run to make it 1-1 off of Brunn. She only had one hit before that out of like 20 at bats. She came through," Uekawa said.

Kasi Cruz improved to 4-1 as a pitcher and picked up the win despite issuing four walks.

"It's very relieving and we worked super hard to get to this point where we are as a team. We all really motivated each other and picked each other up and other people stepped up," Cruz said.

"If you look at the first round, we hardly threw Kasi. It was all Molly (Davi). Then the round robin, we knew how good she is and we said let's see what she can do. She really performed. Throwing Sniffen in the last inning was the plan anyway," Uekawa said of Cruz.

Sniffen scored a run and moved from third to pitch the final inning to pick up her only save of the season.

"It's both, me wanting the ball and me wanting to get the job done for my team and him (Uekawa) trusting and believing in me to do that for him. Overall, just working and doing anything I can to be a team player and honestly just pull out the win," Sniffen said.

Iokia led off the bottom second with a single and Briana Sarae reached on an error to plate Maryknoll's first run.

Punahou took the lead after Lexi Hinahara belted a 2-1 offering over the centerfield fence to make it, 2-1.

Amber Rayray was hit by a pitch and moved over on Sarae's single to shallow center. Dylan Neves moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt and Sniffen was intentionally walked to load the bases. Reyni Hiraoka tied the game at 2 after lacing a single to right. Cruz followed up with a bases-clearing triple as her hit just went over Sydney Capello's outstretched glove for a 5-2 lead.

"I honestly thought it was going to be a pop fly and I thought she caught it but I saw it go over her and I was taking deep breaths. We have this thing called R and B which means ‘Relax and Breathe'. I keep that in my head as a reminder," Cruz said.

Iokia padded the lead with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Rayray added another single but Sarae grounded out in a double play. Neves bunted and Ciana Kamisato reached on an error. Sniffen was intentionally walked to load the bases and Punahou ended the threat on a fielder's choice.

"When we first started this season, we knew what we had. Other people didn't. We knew we had a state tournament team. It was a matter of proving it. As time goes on, the routine plays had to be routine. No matter you're winning or losing, a pressure game like this, you have to stick to the plan and now they understand more," Uekawa said.

Shayla Yamashita reached on Sarae's error and Capello drew a walk. Lii Brown hit a deep single to center field to load the bases. Austen Kinney worked a full count and drove in Yamashita from third and Kealoha Cox added a sacrifice fly to bring in Capello. Maryknoll intentionally walked Taryn Ho and Kahiau Aina sent a grounder to right to bring the Buffanblu within a run to trail, 6-5. Hinahara popped out to Iokia and Tasi Taufahema grounded out to her to end the inning to strand all baserunners.

"You got Shayla and Tasi who were big parts of our success this year. I appreciated Shayla's leadership and her maturity this year and she really stepped up. I'm going to miss that. Our other seniors, role players, they showed up everyday and at the fence supporting. Those things should be recognized and appreciated and I did," Eldredge said.

Cruz and Pahelua Silva each drew walks in the bottom of the sixth and moved a base on Taufahema's wild pitch. Iokia doubled to the left field fence to plate both runners to extend the lead, 8-5.

"It was to play our game and relax, we had the lead, obviously not that big of a lead but we were trying to get outs. Be there for our teammates and trust in each other which we've awesome at doing lately. Just trust in ourselves," Sniffen said.

Paige Brunn started the game, left before five complete innings but re-entered in the bottom of the sixth. She converted a double play as Rayray lined into her glove and she threw it to Ho. Brunn induced Neves to ground out to her for the third out.

Brunn took the loss and ended her junior season with a 9-3 record in the circle. She pitched 5 2/3 innings to scatter eight hits and struck out one and walked three.

Sniffen entered the circle in the seventh inning despite pitching 10 total innings in 16 games. She walked Yamashita to lead off the seventh, and Capello grounded into a fielder's choice. Silva fired the throw to Iokia to tag Capello as she attempted to steal second base. Brown drew a walk, but Kinney grounded out to Hiraoka at second to end the game.

"I think Pale (Silva) did an amazing job at the plate because she felt like they were going to steal on her already because they've been doing that. It was so glad she got an out there and Reyni (Hiraoka) did a great job stopping the ball and laying out on the field," Cruz said.

"I think my team did well on defense. We had our moments but we did a great job of bouncing back. That's what the game is all about. Our team prides itself in what you do next, not what you do now. It's more how you pick yourself up and what you're going to do to bounce back," Sniffen added.

Maryknoll won the state championship in 2022 and made the state tournament appearances in 2014-15 and 2017-19.

"Looking forward to being there. Last year we didn't make it at all. I think that lit a fire into the returnees this year and we know we have something special cooking here and just to be there and to compete against all the talent in the island is what excites us the most," Sniffen said.

It will be the sixth meeting between the Warriors, who clinched the regular season, and the Spartans. Maryknoll leads the series 3-2.

Punahou was seeking to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2019.



Reach Brandon Ching at [email protected].




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