Maryknoll got as far as it could possibly go Wednesday night, dropping ‘Iolani 11-1 in five innings by the 10-run mercy rule in the ILH softball championship game.
Too bad for the Spartans (10-2), though, who were robbed of a chance to compete for the state championship due to that tournament’s COVID-19 cancellation.
The convincing win put coach John Uekawa’s squad in the spotlight again. His Spartans also won ILH championships in 2017 and 2018 and made it as far as the state semifinals in 2015.
Maybe this was the Maryknoll team that could have broken through to gain state supremacy.
“This is the best team I’ve ever played on,” Spartans catcher Liliana Thomas said after the game played at the McKinley High field. “We all hit the ball really well and are very disciplined and pick each other up. It’s just really good to get the ‘Ship.”
Maryknoll junior pitcher Sherreigh Nakoa-Chung and seniors Aloha Akaka, Mahalo Akaka, Allyze Pagaoa, Logan-Ray Gaspar and Liliana Thomas shared an ILH championship moment after Wednesday night’s 11-1 victory over ‘Iolani at the McKinley High field.
Thomas, who will be off to play for Arizona State next season, batted cleanup and went 2-for-3 with a double. Teammate Mahalo Akaka came through in a huge way with a three-run homer to center field in the fifth to make it 10-1 and get the Spartans to within a run of victory.
“I called it,” Thomas said about the homer by Akaka, who also had a 2-for-3 night. “Mahalo went yard. She was due and it was really good to see her hit that.”
Pitcher Sherreigh Nakoa-Chung had an outstanding two-way performance. She went the full five innings, yielding just three hits. She also pounded two of her team’s 12 hits, including the game-winning single to left with the bases loaded, and three RBIs.
“She is dynamic out there,” Thomas, her batterymate, said. “Every pitch she threw, she was hitting her spots.”
Nakoa-Chung also got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth when the Spartans lead was only 5-1.
Both of Maryknoll’s losses this year were to ‘Iolani, one by forfeit and the other an unusual 18-17 final.
But the Spartans didn’t give the Raiders (8-3) an inch in this one, taking a 3-0 lead in the first inning, thanks to three walks of the first four batters by eventual losing pitcher Allie Capello. One runner scored on a walk and another on a wild pitch to go along with Jennifer Sniffen’s sacrifice fly.
‘Iolani countered with its only run in the second, when Milia Fukuda doubled home Kaylee Matsuda, who had singled and, a bit later, stole third base.
Despite the loss, former major leaguer Benny Agbayani talked about his team as a bunch of winners.
“We’re champions,” he said. “We’re in school and the girls are working hard (through the pandemic). It’s education first.”
Agbayani, who led the Raiders to the state title in 2019 (the last full season of softball in Hawaii), pointed out something that might cause a bit of panic among ILH teams: All 18 of his players will return next season.
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The coach’s daughter, Ailana Agbayani, went the rest of the way on the mound after Capello’s first-inning exit.
Maryknoll made it 5-1 in the third on Nakoa-Chung’s RBI groundout and Logan-Ray Gaspar’s run-scoring single.
Gaspar is off to Abilene Christian, a D-I softball school, next season.
Aside from Mahalo Akaka’s homer and Nakoa-Chung’s winning hit in the fifth, Aloha Akaka’s sacrifice fly and an ‘Iolani error also led to the big six-run frame.
ILH Softball Championship Game
Maryknoll 11, ‘Iolani 1
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
At McKinley High field
‘Iolani School (8-3) 010 00 — 1 3 1
Maryknoll (10-2) 302 06 — 11 12 0
Sherreigh Nakoa-Chung and Liliana Thomas; Allie Capello, Ailana Agbayani (1) and Kelly Kai. W-Nakoa-Chung. L-Capello.
Leading hitters: ‘Iolani–Agbayani 1-2; Kaylee Matsuda 1-2, SB, run; Maya Ichimura SAC; Milia Fukuda 2b; Lexie Tilton SAC. Maryknoll: Carys Murakami 2-4, 2b, 2 runs; Mahalo Akaka, 2-3, HR, 3 RBIs, 2 runs; Thomas 2-3, 2b, RBI, run; Jennifer Sniffen, 1-2, SF; Day-lee Williams run; Nakoa-Chung 2-4, 3 RBIs; Logan-Ray Gaspar 2-2, RBI, run; Aloha Akaka SF.