By: Wes Nakama
Threatening dark clouds loomed over Salt Lake on Tuesday afternoon, prompting the softball showdown between Kaiser and Moanalua to start 15 minutes early in hopes of getting ahead of pending rain.
And Moanalua’s bats also wasted no time in coming alive, producing seven runs on five hits in the bottom of the first inning to spark a 14-4 victory shortened to five innings due to the 10-run rule. Na Menehune improved to 4-0, good for sole possession of first place in the OIA Eastern Division. The Cougars fell to 3-1, a half-game behind second-place Kalani (3-0), the team they will face on Saturday.
“It’s a confidence-builder for us, because Kaiser has owned us the last two years,” Moanalua coach Gordon Fernandez said. “So to come out and score this much against them, and play pretty good defense against them, that’s a stacked lineup … It’s a huge confidence-builder for us, now we don’t have to press too much, we know we can compete with somebody this good.”
After Kaiser took a 1-0 lead on Amai Hanta’s inside-the-park home run in the top of the first inning, Na Menehune sent 12 batters to the plate in the bottom half, scoring seven runs on five hits, one walk, one error and a fielder’s choice. They took the lead on a delayed steal from third base, and then followed the error and fielder’s choice with four straight hits, capped by Kara Miyoshi’s two-run single to center.
After a 1-2-3 top of the second, Moanalua’s hit parade continued marching in the bottom half with five straight singles following a leadoff error, resulting in five more runs and a stunning 12-1 lead with no outs.
“We can play well, but the problem is we don’t have that shutdown pitcher,” Cougars coach Mitch Matsumoto said. “Usually, we live off our defense, but we gave up too many hits in the first two innings.”
Kaiser’s defense did come up with a rare triple play to escape further damage, on a fly ball to right field that was caught and thrown home to catch the runner attempting to score, and then a throw to second to nail the runner attempting to advance.
The Cougars then led off the top of the third with Kalie Otani’s drive to left that glanced off the fielder’s glove and rolled to the wall, allowing Otani to circle the bases and cut the lead to 12-2. Then in the fourth, Rylee Yamasaki launched a drive that center fielder Hunter Jackson almost made a spectacular diving catch on, but the ball popped out of her glove on the hard landing. Kylie Ifuku followed with a line drive into the gap between center and right for a two-run inside-the-park homer to close it to 12-4.
Miyoshi led off the bottom of the fifth with a single to left, and Jackson later drew a one-out walk to set up Maila Taga’s game-ending two-run double in between the center and left fielder.
Na Menehune pounded out 15 hits, with five batters getting more than one: Tori Villarmia went 3-for-3 with three RBI’s, Miyoshi went 3-for-4 with two RBI’s, Taga went 2-for-2 with the two-run double, Kamryn Miyataki went 2-for-3 with two RBI’s and Jackson finished 2-for-3 with one RBI. Emily Tome added a double.
Hanta (2-for-3, home run) and Ifuku (1-for-2, two-run homer) led Kaiser’s offense.