Pristine pitching at Long Beach State helps Hawai’i to 5th straight series win

Pristine pitching at Long Beach State helps Hawai’i to 5th straight series win

Hawai’i shortstop Jordan Donahue crosses home plate during a home game. The ‘Bows took 2 out of 3 on the road at Long Beach State last weekend behind strong pitching & quality at-bats from the top of the lineup down. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Pristine pitching at Long Beach State helps Hawai’i to 5th straight series win

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAY 20, 2024

LONG BEACH, CA – Just because the weekend saw one winning streak for Hawai’i baseball snapped did not mean another kind of successful streak needed to end. 

Entering the weekend, the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (34-16, 17-10 Big West) flexed the country’s best current winning streak, ending the previous 11 consecutive games as the victors. The ‘Bows continued the hot stretch – that has now lasted over a month – last weekend, taking two out of three games at Long Beach State for the program’s fifth straight series win.  

While Hawai’i ended up dropping late in the first game on Friday, 4-3, and saw the 11-game winning streak end in rough fashion, the Rainbow Warriors rebounded quickly with a pair of 7-2 and 2-0 victories on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. 

Game 1: Long Beach State 4, Hawai’i 3. 

After the teams traded zeroes for the opening inning and a half of action, LBSU got the scoring started in the bottom of the 2nd with the game’s first run after a one-out single, stolen base and E2 allowed Adrian Lopez to reach 3rd base and score on an RBI groundout to second by junior catch Cole Santander. 

The Dirtbags added two more runs in the bottom of the 3rd inning, extending the LBSU lead to 3-0 after three full frames to open the series. Hawai’i finally got some offensive traction in the top of the 4th inning, scoring a run with back-to-back one-out doubles from Kyson Donahue and Dallas Duarte to cut Long Beach’s lead down, 3-1. 

After allowing three runs in three innings, UH’s pitching settled down as starter Connor Harrison sat down the Dirtbags in order in the bottom of the 4th to finish his day with four innings of 3-run ball and allowing the ‘Bows to remain in it. His team rewarded his bounce back by scratching across their second run of the contest in the top of the 5th, this time with an Austin Machado RBI double that brought home Jake Tsukada with two outs. 

Alex Giroux took over in the 5th inning for Harrison and Hawai’i, giving up a leadoff double before retiring the next three batters in order. In all, Giroux allowed just two hits against the first 11 batters he faced and let Hawai’i bring it all the way back from down three runs. The ‘Bows tied the game, 3-3, in the top of the 8th with a Matthew Miura two-out, RBI single just out of the reach of the shortstop for LBSU. 

The UH momentum would be short-lived though as Dirtbags’ sophomore Armando Briseno blasted the game-winning, two-out home run off of Giroux in the bottom of the 8th to put LBSU back up, 4-3. 

Hawai’i was retired in order in the top of the 9th inning by Mike Villani as LBSU took game one of three to begin the Dirtbags’ senior weekend series. Nathan Morris (1-2) received the win for Long Beach State while Villani recorded the save. Alex Giroux (6-3) was charged with the loss after going four innings, giving up three hits and allowing the go-ahead home run in the 8th. 

Game 2: Hawai’i 7, Long Beach State 2. 

Saturday’s contest started better for the ‘Bows as Hawai’i’s offense struck first in the top of the 3rd inning with a pair of runs, seeing Jake Tsukada bring home Elijah Ickes with an RBI single with two outs before Austin Machado followed suit with an RBI double to make it 2-0. 

The Dirtbags answered back in the bottom of the 3rd, capitalizing on an E1 to get on the board with an RBI single that cut the Hawai’i lead in half. UH starting pitcher Randy Abshier saw his scoreless innings streak snapped at 15.1 innings but settled back down to retire the next two batters and post a clean bottom of the 4th, holding on to his streak of 17.1 innings pitched without giving up an earned run. 

Hawai’i added to the lead in the top of the 5th as Machado tallied his second RBI of the game with a single up the middle that scored Tsukada to make it 3-1. Machado scored two batters later after stealing 2nd and advancing to third on a fielder’s choice, scoring on an RBI single from Dallas Duarte. 

UH freshman standout pitcher Itsuki Takemoto took over for Abshier to begin the 5th, posting another zero on the board for the ‘Bows while working around a two-out walk. After Takemoto’s clean day, head coach Rich Hill made the call to the bullpen in the 6th for sophomore southpaw Harrison Bodendorf. 

And boy, did Bodey take over. 

The ‘Bows sophomore left-hander diced up the Dirtbags, setting a new career-high with 10 strikeouts over four innings of relief while giving up just one run on three hits to grab his second save of the season for Hawai’i. To assist, his offense added a few insurance runs in the 6th and 8th innings to give Bodendorf room to work with. 

Itsuki Takemoto earned the win for Hawai’i while Van Larson was charged with the loss for LBSU, setting up a rubber match for the series on Long Beach State’s Sunday Senior Day. 

Game 3: Hawai’i 2, Long Beach State 0. 

On Long Beach State’s Senior Day game, Hawai’i quickly decided to play spoiler as the ‘Bows scored a run just four pitches into the contest to take a 1-0 lead. Jordan Donahue led the game off with a single into left field before scoring from first on an RBI double to left by Jake Tsukada, continuing a hot series for the productive top-of-lineup bats. 

Freshman Brayden Marx got the Sunday start on the rubber for the ‘Bows and rewarded his team for their continued trust in the confident young hurler, spinning two scoreless innings with three strikeouts to open the action for Hawai’i’s defense. 

Back at the plate, UH added on an insurance run in the 2nd inning as Itsuki Takemoto – the two-way Japanese freshman stud – continued his rapid improvement at the plate by picking up his third RBI of the season. 

(Context: Takemoto has appeared at the plate 10 times this season while taking the mound in 19 different contests for the ‘Bows. He is hitting .444 heading into the final weekend of the regular season) 

The two-run lead was all that Hawai’i would need, stifling the Dirtbags’ offense all day with multiple arms giving the ‘Bows an inning or two throughout the game. In all, six UH pitchers would face 38 LBSU batters and kept every single one from getting a chance to cross home plate. 

It did not come without some sweating down the stretch as Long Beach was able to load the bases with two outs after a pair of singles and a hit-by-pitch from Alex Giroux. The veteran righty calmly settled back in to induce a game-ending groundout to shortstop to clinch UH’s 15th win in the last 17 games, picking up his first save of the year in the process. 

What’s Next? 

Hawai’i returns home for the regular-season finale series against Cal State Fullerton, continuing to fight for their postseason lives. The ‘Bows will take on the Titans three times in three days, with start times for Thursday and Friday’s contests at 6:35 p.m. and Saturday’s “Show ‘UHM Your Aloha” Senior Day has first pitch scheduled for 4:05 p.m. with plans to honor 14 seniors afterwards. 

Mililani marches past Kamehameha-Kapālama for program’s 4th state title

Mililani marches past Kamehameha-Kapālama for program’s 4th state title

 

Mililani marches past Kamehameha-Kapālama for program’s 4th state title

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAY 18, 2024

HONOLULU – For the first time in a decade, a Koa Head trophy will dance back to Mililani for a softball champion. 

The top-seeded Mililani Trojans (17-1) captured the program’s fourth state title on Friday night, running away from 2nd-seeded Kamehameha-Kapālama (14-6) by posting crooked numbers in the back-to-back frames to run-rule the Warriors in five innings, 14-1, and win the 2024 DataHouse/HHSAA Division I Softball Championship. It is the third state championship for the Trojans under the direction of longtime head coach Rose Antonio. 

The victory for the Trojans comes exactly a decade after the last state title – though it was a bit less stressful in the later innings this time around rather than in the 2014 championship game, which was a comeback 2-1 victory over the Campbell Sabers where Mililani scored the tying run in the 6th inning and walked it off with another run coming with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. 

The 2024 edition of the DataHouse/HHSAA Division I Softball Championship looked to be a similar battle early on as the teams played to a 1-1 stalemate through three innings – though a questionable foul ball call against KS-Kapālama’s Mua Williams took what would have been a go-ahead two-run extra base hit away from the Warriors’ shortstop in the bottom of the 3rd inning. The senior standout, committed to play her college softball at the University of Georgia, would later ground out to bring home the tying run as the 3rd inning ended with the sides tied. 

Without taking the momentum fully with the lead, KS-Kapālama quickly saw the team’s title hopes fly away – literally. 

Mililani posted seven runs in the top of the fourth to break open the game, led by University of Hawai’i softball signee Sunni Kahanu’s leadoff home run that put the Trojans back in front. The top half of the frame was capped off by Hawai’i Pacific signee Makayla Pagampao’s 3-run blast, powering Mililani an 8-1 advantage in the blink of an eye. 

On the other side, Mililani standout freshman pitcher Hinano Bautista had Kamehameha-Kapālama off-balance for the majority of the night, facing just four batters extra than needed over the final four innings of the game as the Trojans’ ace of staff posted a pristine line in the win: 5.0 IP, 4 hits, 1 run (0 ER) and a pair of walks, most importantly grabbing her 10th and biggest win of the season. 

The freshman star was assisted by another large scoring outburst by the Mililani offense in the top of the 5th inning as the Trojans brought home six more runs to put the Warriors in jeopardy of being run-ruled. After Pagampao drew a bases-loaded walk to force in a run, Kahanu drilled her second blast over the fence of the night to put the cherry on top of the ever-clicking offense for Mililani. 

Bautista was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after allowing four runs (2 ER) across 16 innings pitched, leading the Trojans to a perfect 3-0 record through the HHSAA playoffs. Joining her on the All-Tournament team from Mililani, as selected by the media, was sophomore infielder Jerrell Mailo, senior infielder Taryn Hirano, senior centerfielder Sunni Kahanu and senior utility Makayla Pagampao. 

Kamehameha-Kapālama rolled through the opening two rounds of the DataHouse/HHSAA Division I Softball Tournament, outscoring opponents Leilehua and Baldwin by a combined score of 27-4, tallying back-to-back five inning run-rule wins. Following the momentum shift to open the top of the fourth, the Warriors were unable to recover and saw an otherwise successful season end. 

The Warriors had six players named to the All-Tournament team, seeing senior Mua Williams, senior Mariah Antoque, senior Marley Espiau, senior Mikaela Scarborough, junior catcher Kezia Lucas and freshman pitcher Peahi Grilho-Armitage all receive honors for their efforts throughout the state playoffs. 

Mililani becomes just the fourth OIA program to win four or more HHSAA Division I state titles, joining Kailua, Pearl City and Campbell – who the Trojans dispatched a round prior with a hard-fought 3-2 win in the semifinals. 

Unbeaten Kapa’a flex bats, down Pac-5 for DataHouse/HHSAA Division II Softball title

Unbeaten Kapa’a flex bats, down Pac-5 for DataHouse/HHSAA Division II Softball title

 

Unbeaten Kapa’a flex bats, down Pac-5 for DataHouse/HHSAA Division II Softball title

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAY 18, 2024

HONOLULU – For the second time in three years, the best softball team in the HHSAA Division II is from the eastside of Kauai. 

KIF champion Kapa’a (15-0) completed an undefeated season on Friday, using powerful bats and pretty defense to push past the Pac-5 Wolfpack (11-3-1) in five innings, 13-1, for the 2024 DataHouse/HHSAA Division II Softball championship. The Warriors struck quickly and often, putting up multiple runs in the first four innings to jump out to a 13-run lead before finally allowing a run to the Wolfpack in the bottom of the 4th inning. 

Kapata saw eight of nine batters record a hit while the top five hitters in the lineup recorded runs batted in for the KIF powerhouse. While the bats were impressive for the Warriors, starting pitcher Karlee-Rose Keale was just as effective and efficient as she twirled a sparkling five innings of one-run ball. The junior pitcher allowed just two hits all game while striking out a pair and walking two batters in the run-rule complete game effort. 

Warriors’ 2nd baseman Rhea Furtado was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after the senior went 3-for-4 with a home run and double that resulted in a game-best five runs batted in during the championship. In all, Kapa’a had six players named to the All-Tournament team as voted by the media covering the tournament (INF Charlize Kenney, INF Sienna Yamashita, OF Hailey Gibson, OF Nahe Marshall and P Karlee-Rose Keale were all selected). 

Pac-5, the defending Division II high school softball champions in Hawai’i, saw a magical run to the title game with a youthful roster end against a powerhouse of a Kapa’a team but flashed potential for another deep run next year as the team graduates no seniors. 

The Wolfpack placed three players onto the All-Tournament team as sophomore catcher Dahlia Gangano, junior infielder Kylie Oshita and freshman utility player Mauliola Zuttermeister all received honors as voted by the media. Zuttermeister was responisble for the lone run in the championship game for Pac-5, smacking a solo home run in the bottom of the 4th inning.  

The title is the second in program history for Kapa’a softball. The Warriors became the first KIF program in HHSAA playoff history to win two titles in a three-year span at either the Division I or II levels. 

KS-Kapālama downs Punahou in overtime to clinch historic state title repeat

KS-Kapālama downs Punahou in overtime to clinch historic state title repeat

KS-Kapālama downs Punahou in overtime to clinch historic state title repeat

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAY 11, 2024

HONOLULU – The new queens of the pool? Dynasty of Warriors? 

No matter how you slice it, the Kamehameha-Kapālama Warriors made history Saturday night as the defending state champions downed Punahou in overtime of the HHSAA girls’ water polo state championship match, 9-8. With the win, KS-Kapālama became just the second program to ever win back-to-back state championships in girls’ water polo – joining the Punahou Buff n’ Blue, who had won 13 consecutive state crowns before the Warriors knocked them off in 2023. 

It was the fourth overtime match between the two ILH powerhouses this season and sixth meeting overall. For fans who had paid close attention, it was a near-expectation entering the night that the game may need extra time once again. 

The defending champion Warriors used an aggressive start to open the game, winning the opening sprint and earning a 5-meter penalty shot that skirted wide to begin the evening’s proceedings. KSK’s aggression finally paid off as Laikukamahina Wong found the back of the net for KSK just under 90 seconds into the action. 

KS-Kapālama’s defense would hold strong, turning away a few close opportunities for Punahou to keep the Buff n’ Blue scoreless through the opening 7-minute frame and helped the Warriors take a 2-0 lead into the 2nd quarter after Ava Gurney snuck in a goal with 26 seconds left in the opening stanza. 

Punahou began to wake up in the 2nd quarter, winning the opening sprint but not scoring with the early advantage. KS-Kapālama continued to play quickly with counter attacks, fast breaking down the pool following a stop and drawing a 5-meter penalty try once again. This time, Gurney finished the play and delivered a 3-0 lead to the Warriors with 6:14 left in the 1st half. 

It was Punahou leading scorer Synnove Robinson that finally got the Buff ‘n Blue out of the scoring funk with her first goal of the night just 24 seconds after Gurney’s penalty finish to make it a 3-1 deficit. The Buff ‘n Blue would cut the Warriors’ lead in half just over a minute later with a 5-meter penalty shot of their own, watching along as Ava Aguilera calmly deposited the second goal of the night for Punahou. 

The Buff ‘n Blue offensive onslaught continued 70 seconds later as Kailoa Kerber got into the scoring fun, punching in a goal with 3:22 left in the 2nd quarter and sending the match into halftime all tied at 3-3. 

Punahou’s powerful momentum shift did not stop with the midway break, either. Hope McCarren scored the fourth consecutive goal for the Buff ‘n Blue after the visitors fell down 3-0 to open the contest, giving Punahou its first lead of the night with 4:23 left in the 3rd quarter.  

Following a timeout, the KS-Kapālama squad settled back into their comfort zone and tied the game at 4-4 with Wong’s second goal of the night with 1:25 remaining in the frame. It looked like the Warriors had stolen back the momentum until Kerber snuck in a goal with three seconds left before the final quarter to send Punahou into the 4th leading by one, 5-4. 

After the Warriors’ offense had been stymied for the first four minutes of the final frame, Tea Brandon brought back the Kamehameha-Kapālama team once again with a game-tying score with 2:40 left in regulation. Punahou star Synnove Robinson nearly clinched the title for the Buff ‘n Blue with back-to-back scores within a minute of each other, giving a 7-5 lead to the longtime dynasty program that was searching for the top once again. 

With 97 ticks left to save their season, Kamehameha-Kapālama called timeout to re-group. The break in the action was all the defending champions needed to lock back in on the ultimate goal. 

Again, Brandon delivered a quick-strike goal with 1:23 left to play and cut the Punahou lead to one score. Needing one stop, the Warriors suffocated the Buff ‘n Blue offense and countered for a critical possession. With 37 seconds left in regulation, Isabella Wailele Kapali bounced one into the back of the net to tie the game at 7-all and re-ignite the hometown Warriors crowd as the match went to overtime. 

With two 3-minute periods to be played with no golden goal sudden-death ending in play, both teams took turns with cautious attacks throughout the opening overtime. After trading stops, KS-Kapālama’s Wong delivered on her third and biggest goal of the night to give the Warriors an 8-7 lead heading into the 2nd overtime frame. 

Punahou star Synnove Robinson one-upped Wong’s hat trick by scoring her fourth goal of the night on a 5-meter penalty shot just 18 seconds into the 2nd overtime period, tying the match once again. 

Tea Brandon erased the memory of that 46 seconds later, scoring the decisive ninth goal for Kamehameha-Kapālama with 1:56 left in overtime to take a 9-8 lead as Brandon completed a hat trick of her own. The Warriors drained the clock with the few remaining possessions they had, shutting down the Punahou offense to clinch the improbable comeback and become the second program in HHSAA history to win back-to-back girls’ water polo championships. 

“To repeat is just such an awesome feeling. All the credit goes to the girls, they did an awesome job tonight,” KS-Kapālama head coach Anthony Cabrera said following the win. “Only one other team has [repeated] in the history of girls’ water polo in the state of Hawai’i, and we look up to that program.” 

It is the Warriors’ second title under Cabrera and third in program history. For a team that had struggled to finish the job at the top until last season, Kamehameha-Kapālama has figured out the way to win in big moments and is not looking to stop anytime soon. 

“It feels really amazing, I was really hoping we would get the two-peat this year and we did,” KS-Kapālama’s Laikukamahina Wong said following her hat trick in the team’s state title win. “Now we can go home saying we may be the new queens of water polo in town.” 

 

Photo Credit: Ku’ulei Agbayani, HSRN

Photo Credit: Ku’ulei Agbayani, HSRN

Historic Hawai’i season ends with close loss to California in national semifinals

Historic Hawai’i season ends with close loss to California in national semifinals

Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine water polo head coach Maureen Cole waves to the crowd following a match for UH. Hawai’i’s season came to an end on Saturday, May 11 in the national semifinals, falling to #3 Cal, 9-6. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Historic Hawai’i season ends with close loss to California in national semifinals

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAY 11, 2024

All good things must come to an end. 

An all-time great season for the Rainbow Wahine water polo program came to a close on Saturday afternoon as 2nd-seeded Hawai’i (23-4) fell in the National Collegiate Women’s Water Polo Championship semifinals to 3rd-seeded California, 9-6. The hosting Bears’ defense put a straitjacket on the Rainbow Wahine offense, holding Hawai’i to a 2-for-17 clip on 6-on-5 advantage opportunities throughout the day. 

That defensive effort combined with a six-goal avalanche in the 2nd quarter from California (19-6) proved to be enough to down the number two team in the country as the Bears advanced to the program’s first national championship appearance since 2011 and second overall. Hawai’i’s season closes after advancing to the nation’s final four for the first time since 2013. 

“I’m just really proud of the Wahine team for this year, this season,” veteran Hawai’i head coach Maureen Cole said following the loss. “This game in particular didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but they fought until the end and that’s just a testament to the people they are.” 

The loss closes the coaching career of the Hawai’i water polo legend in Cole, who now heads into retirement as the all-time wins leader in program history. For the Punahou School graduate and former UCLA three-time national champion in her own playing days, there was no group of people she would have wanted to enjoy her final season at the helm with. 

“A great group of girls,” the 13-year head coaching veteran gushed. “There’s no group I would want to spend the last nine months with and I’m just really proud of their efforts. It’s sports. There’s a winner, there’s a loser. These were two evenly matched teams, [and] we couldn’t put the ball away very well today, they did. Credit to Cal … just wish this [season] could’ve gone on for another day, but proud of the team.” 

Cal provided an early jab, getting the scoring started early with the first two goals of the match to begin the 1st quarter before junior attacker Bernadette Doyle got Hawai’i on the board with her first goal at the 2:24 mark of the opening period. 

The 2nd quarter proved to be the difference as Cal’s offense delivered a haymaker with six goals in the frame while holding Hawai’i to two scores, dominating the first half’s exclusion chances with goals in 4-of-6 advantage opportunities while holding UH to 2-of-9 in first half 6-on-5’s. 

“The power play tells [the story] pretty much,” Cole said of the Rainbow Wahine’s offensive woes. “We weren’t putting the ball away … I thought we were getting good looks on the cage.” 

Hawai’i’s staunch defense settled back in during the 3rd quarter, holding Cal off the board entirely in the frame. Again, it was offensive struggles keeping the Rainbow Wahine at a deficit as the offense struggled to capitalize on chances on the net and scored only once in the defensive masterpiece of a quarter. 

Doyle pulled Hawai’i within three with her second goal of the contest coming a minute and a half into the final quarter, but an immediate answer from Cal’s Elena Flynn erased the effort quickly and gave the Bears a 9-5 lead. Still, Doyle wouldn’t allow the Rainbow Wahine to go quietly into the offseason as she completed her hat trick with her third goal of the game with 4:27 left in regulation. 

Hawai’i had another chance to pull within two with a penalty shot from five meters out with just under four minutes left, but it was saved and pushed wide of the post by Cal goal keeper Isabel Williams, who tallied 14 saves in the semifinal matchup and helped the Bears hold UH to a season-low in goals en route to the 9-6 victory for the 3rd-seed. 

Maryn Dempsey posted a hat trick of her own for the Bears, leading Cal with three scores while five other players found the back of the net for the hosting team. California advances to the national championship game to face the unbeaten top-seeded UCLA Bruins on Sunday. 

Hawai’i was led by Doyle’s trifecta of goals, her sixth hat trick of the season. Big West Player of the Year Bia Mantellato Dias followed closely with a pair of scores herself while senior Alba Bonamusa Boix closed her college career with one final goal for the Rainbow Wahine. 

“For this group, I think [this season] is historic,” Cole reflected on the year for Hawai’i. “We went undefeated in conference, the first time we had ever beaten Stanford, we beat USC twice. I mean, those are things that this group will never have taken away from them. This is the first time we’ve made [a national semifinal] in the new format, I know we’ve made it before but it’s harder to get here [now].” 

“I’ve been very proud to be a part of this team,” junior attacker Bernadette Doyle added. “We all worked really hard … I’m so happy I was able to be coached by Mo again and [associate head coach James Robinson]. It’s been a great year with the team, and we’ve just tried to make Hawai’i proud.” 

With the retirement of Cole, Robinson will step into the full-time head coaching role going forward for the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine program. Much like Cole, Robinson is a three-time national champion from his playing days in the pool at UCLA and came to the UH program after helping on the staff that led the 2021 UCLA women’s water polo team to a national championship appearance. 

“I think Coach Robinson is the best that there is [and] that Hawai’i is in phenomenal hands,” an emotional Maureen Cole responded about the future of the program. “That is really why I’m at complete peace walking away. I always want to leave things better than I found it and I think I did that, and I think the program is going to be better off with him leading the program moving forward. I’m excited for him, he’s as good as they get.”