HIGH SCHOOL REPORT
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
St. Francis softball player Caitlin Basilio took a cut at batting practice recently. The Troubadours have five seniors who won the state Division II title two years ago. CLICK FOR LARGE
Small and significant
The St. Francis softball team went from an also-ran to a legitimate ILH power
AFTER more than 80 years of existence, St. Francis School is undergoing big changes at its Manoa campus.
The Catholic school recently added a primary school (grades K-5) and also allowed boys to be admitted for the first time since the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neuman Communities founded the institution in 1924. Boys joined the kindergarten class this year and will be integrated through all grades over time.
"I guess it is a good move for the school, but it's not going to be the same St. Francis," Brittany Akana, a senior pitcher for the school's softball team, said. "It'll be different, but we support what's best for our school."
The school of 350-plus students has undergone another major change in recent years, with the astronomical rise of its softball program.
For years, St. Francis softball players were relegated to playing on combination teams, most recently competing on a team also consisting of players from Hawaii Baptist and St. Andrew's Priory that never neared the top perch of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.
In 2004-05, the school fielded its own softball team for the first time, coinciding with the Hawaii High School Athletic Association's addition of the Division II classification. The results were staggering. That season, coach Mark Glushenko guided the Troubadours through an improbable year that culminated in a state Division II title.
"Being able to play as 'St. Francis' was a big thing for us," Akana said. "Knowing we all come from the same school meant a lot for us and allowed us to really experience school pride, especially since a lot of us have been playing together for a long time."
Last year, the Troubadours made the jump to Division I, competing against schools of all sizes and producing another season of remarkable results. St. Francis went 11-2 during the ILH season to finish second to perennial power Kamehameha and advance to the state Division I tournament.
For his team's success, Glushenko was voted the ILH coach of the year. Joining him in earning honors were Akana, catcher Ashley Smith and first baseman Shannon Lum, who were voted to the All-ILH first team. Third baseman Sasha Koki, and Jovan Hire were selected to the second team. All five return this season, as does honorable mention All-State center fielder Jandee Taira.
This year, the Troubadours are a bona fide power to be reckoned with, currently tied atop the ILH with Iolani at 5-1.
In their season-opening 7-2 win over Kamehameha, the pitching of Akana and a double and triple by Taira spurred St. Francis to victory. After consecutive convincing wins over Pac-Five and Sacred Hearts, St. Francis absorbed its first loss of the season to Iolani, 5-2.
"Even though we lost that game, I think it will help us in the long run," Lum said. "It taught us what we need to work on to get better for the rest of the season."
The Troubadours rebounded against Punahou, winning 3-2 as Keala Bertulfo went 3-for-3 with a homer and Lum doubled twice. This past Saturday, it was Koki who provided the lift, as she picked up the complete-game win with a tidy five-hitter while also going 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs.
"That is one of the great things about our team," Glushenko said. "Any of our players can step up and take the lead in any given game. Our five seniors this season all played a big part in our Division II state championship, and we are fortunate to have all of them back leading us again."
Two Troubadours have already received attention from college programs. Last season, right-hander Akana improved upon her 10 wins and 2.32 ERA as a sophomore to earn 12 victories with a 1.89 ERA.
A two-time All-State honorable mention pick, she has received interest from NCAA Division II programs.
Sporting one of the most formidable bats in the state and a 5-foot-10 frame, Lum has received interest from colleges as well, including the University of Hawaii. In last season's state tournament, Lum led the Troubadours offense, batting .571.
"Uncle Mark is a big reason for our success on the field," Lum said. "He's the kind of coach that goes the extra mile for us. He always makes sure we have our fundamentals down, and if we need any work, he'll come out and help us until we get it right."
St. Francis' rise as a legitimate contender has done much more than increase school pride, it has given hope to the also-rans in the ILH that anything is possible.
"When we started out on our own three years ago, our aim was to work to where we could eventually catch up to the bigger schools," Lum said. "Our success has come a little faster than we expected, and that's a tribute to our girls and our coaches. We take pride in being a small school competing with the big programs and holding our own and we hope we can give hope to other small schools that it can be done."