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Saturday, January 31, 2004



[ HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS ]


Kalaheo rallies to take
Division II softball title


When the going gets tough, the Kalaheo Mustangs whoop it up and have a laugh.

That approach may not work for most softball teams, but it's a winning recipe for Kalaheo. The Mustangs rallied with a three-run sixth inning to edge Aiea 3-2 yesterday afternoon to capture the Oahu Interscholastic Association's Division II championship.

"This feels great. It's fantastic," Kalaheo head coach Alan Cofran said.

The Mustangs are making a habit of close wins in comeback fashion. They rallied to eke out a 5-4 win over Nanakuli on Thursday in a semifinal.

"This team doesn't give up," Cofran said. "They've worked so hard, and they're jelling right now."

Rallying with a sense of joy comes naturally to the Mustangs. "We had fun. We're just confident about that," said Keikilani Gager, who came through with a big RBI single for Kalaheo.

Winning pitcher Kaliko Kepa, who helped Kalaheo rally at the plate, wasn't surprised by the dramatic flavor. "We just had to pull through. We relax, have fun, and that's how we pull through," the sophomore said.

Kalaheo's win overshadowed a good performance by Aiea pitcher Ashley Sato, who went the distance, was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Jamie Rosario also was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Kalaheo (6-6) managed just one base hit through five innings as Aiea take a 2-0 lead. The Mustangs returned to the dugout after the rough frame and sang up a storm.

Sato set Kalaheo down in order, fanning two Mustangs, in the bottom of the fifth. However, Kalaheo's bats began to sing in the sixth.

Kerstyn Tsuruda and Deann Horswill opened the inning with consecutive singles, and Kepa came through with an RBI single to left, scoring Tsuruda. Moments later, Gager got enough of a Sato pitch to single up the middle.

"I was looking for a hole on the field. She threw a lot of slow and fast pitches," said Gager, a junior. "The pitch I hit was a little slow."

Gager's clutch hit allowed Horswill to score, and the game was tied at 2. Sato struck out Kaliko Serrao, but Jasmine Nahipa'a tapped a single to right, and Kepa raced home with the go-ahead run.

Nahipa'a wasn't even aware that her hit gave her team the lead. "Really? I was waiting for the perfect one. It was just there," the freshman said. "It didn't go as far as I wanted, but it was good enough."

Sato whiffed Tina Acevedo and Kamala Kau to end the inning, but the damage was done.

"Kalaheo came through with their bats," Aiea head coach Blake Moritsugu said. "They had their big hitters come up, and we couldn't do anything about that."

ILH playoff set: An ILH Division II softball playoff game will be held Thursday at 3:45 p.m. at Mid-Pacific.

If Hawaii Baptist Academy/St. Andrew's Priory/St. Francis (7-6) finishes with a better record than University (5-7) at the end of the regular season on Monday, it will have to drop four players who don't attend St. Francis from its 15-person roster to play in the playoff game that will decide the berth in the state's inaugural D-II tournament.

Some combination teams are allowed in state tournaments, but not HBA/SA/SF.

If both teams finish the regular season at 7-7, Thursday's playoff will pit the combined HBA/SA/SF team against University to decide the ILH title only.

If the combined team wins, another game -- St. Francis players only vs. University -- would then be held to decide the state berth.

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