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Punahou holds off Kamehameha, 6-4, in tight ILH race

By Wes Nakama

An already tight ILH softball race got even tighter Thursday afternoon, when Punahou held off Kamehameha, 6-4, for an impressive road victory at Kapalama Heights.

Junior right-hander Paige Brunn allowed only one earned run in six and one-third innings, Taryn Ho went 3 for 4 with two runs scored and Lexi Hirahara went 2 for 4 with two RBIs as the Buff ‘n Blue won their fourth straight game to improve to 5-2, tied for second place with Maryknoll (also 5-2) and just a half-game behind defending champion Kamehameha (6-2).

“This is the ILH, every time,” Warriors coach Mark Lyman said. “It just goes to show that anybody can win on any day, that’s just the level of play we have in the ILH. It’s a great league, and it pushes everybody well.”

Kamehameha routed Punahou, 16-1, in the teams’ first meeting just nine days prior. But this time around, the Buff ‘n Blue took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning when Li’i Brown led off with a walk, stole second base and scored on Sydney Capello’s two-out double to left-center.

Punahou then added two runs in the third after Hirahara’s RBI single and Brown’s run-scoring groundout. The Warriors closed it to 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth on Mua Williams’ solo home run over the center field fence.

The Buff ‘n Blue then extended the lead to 6-1 in the top of the fifth inning after Hirahara’s RBI double to right field, a run-scoring single by Shayla Yamashita and an infield error.

In the meantime, Brunn was steady if not spectacular in keeping Kamehameha’s dangerous lineup mostly in check.

“They have four of the top hitters in the state, it is intimidating facing them,” Punahou coach Boy Eldredge said. “But hats off to Paige, she did a great job, she got ahead in the counts and earned those strikes.”

Trouble did brew in the bottom in the sixth, when Kezia Lucas hit a sharp RBI single that ricocheted off of Brunn’s knee and into the outfield, closing the score to 6-2 and forcing Brunn to leave the game. Williams immediately followed with a two-run single to cut it to 6-4.

But reliever Tasi Taufahema was able to get two groundouts to end the rally, and Brunn re-entered the game in the seventh.

“We knew we had 8-9-1 (in the lineup) coming up, and she had success with them throughout the game,” Eldredge said. “So we felt if we could just get her back in and throw strikes, we were going to be in decent shape. We knew at least for three or four batters, Paige should give us the strikes we were looking for.”

Said Brunn: “I wanted to go back in.”

Taufahema stabbed a sharp grounder and made a strong throw to first for the initial out, then Brunn got a fly ball to right and a line out to shortstop to end the game.

“I’m very grateful for my defense, they found the ball in the outfield and then they made some good plays in the infield,” Brunn said. “I had a lot of confidence in my team, so I didn’t have to play with fear. We’ve been hitting a lot, which is good, and we’ve been making plays.”  

Williams finished 3 for 3 with the home run and two RBIs to lead the Warriors.

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