DIVISION I STATE SOFTBALL
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Saint Francis' Shannon Lum reached to complete a double play, tagging Baldwin's Awapuhi Detillon out at first in the top of the third inning last night.
No. 3 Bears advance to final
The promise of yesteryear is nearly fulfilled for the Baldwin Bears.
Nicole Alconcel fired a one-hitter and drilled a first-inning, two-run homer as the third-seeded Bears eliminated second-seeded St. Francis 2-0 last night in the semifinals of the Datahouse/HHSAA State Softball Division I Championships.
Datahouse/HHSAA State Softball Championships
All remaining games at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
Baldwin 2, St. Francis 0
Mililani 5, Iolani 0
Baldwin vs. Mililani, 8 p.m.
A robust crowd at chilly Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium saw the senior-heavy Bears reach the finals for the first time since 2001, when Baldwin last won the state crown.
Maui Interscholastic League champion Baldwin improved to 16-0 as Alconcel fanned eight and walked three en route to the shutout.
"Most of my screws and rises were working," the senior ace said.
Catcher Sanoe Kekahuna, who calls the pitches, had a good feeling that her longtime battery mate was ready.
"Everything was working," the senior said. "Her changes were good, but we didn't need it. We have this chemistry together. She knows I'll make the right call."
Indeed, Alconcel did not shake off a call all night. Shannon Lum managed the only base hit for St. Francis.
"We don't call the game," veteran coach Rudy Souza said. "Sanoe calls everything."
As underclassmen, the Bears toiled diligently under taskmaster Ryan Souza, Rudy's son. Now, their nine seniors are in the state championship final.
"It's our last year. We won't be in high school again. This is our last chance to have a shot," Alconcel said. "We're more mature now, more heart, everything is more for the team. We don't worry about the other team."
In two tournament appearances, she has permitted one run and three hits in 14 innings, with 18 strikeouts and six walks.
It was a heartbreaking defeat for St. Francis (13-4), a tiny school from Manoa that won the state D-II championship in '04 and won the Interscholastic League of Honolulu D-I title this season. Ace Brittney Akana was in form after surrendering the homer to Alconcel, allowing five hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
Alconcel's home run, which barely cleared the fence in right-center, brought home June Ann Lusk, who had reached base on an infield single.
"I knew it was a hit, but when it went over, we were jumping out of our seats," Kekahuna said.
"It was flat, middle-outside," Alconcel said of her fourth homer of the season. "I thought I was late on it."
Alconcel was in complete control, though the Troubadours threatened in the sixth when Sasha Koki drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on Jovan Hire's sacrifice bunt. Alconcel then bore down. She struck out Keala Bertufo and cleanup hitter Ashley Smith on called third strikes to end the threat.
Troubadour hopes rose when Lum reached base on an infield error to start the bottom of the seventh, but Alconcel bore down again. She struck out the next two Troubadours and got Akana to pop out to end the contest.
Players like Alconcel and Kekahuna were in middle school when they joined the program as managers. That allowed the staff to work out with the kids, and the work proved worthwhile.
In 2001, Rudy Souza had just stepped down following triple-bypass surgery, passing the reins to son, Ryan, who in turn spent hours, then years, honing his talented, young group.
This, in all aspects, is their payoff year.
"Ryan still runs the team," Rudy said of his son, who stepped down as head coach because of work obligations. "My assistants do a great job."
Souza will be happy with a title, but he's happy without one, too.
"Right now, they're playing tough. I tell them, 'Enjoy the game, have fun and play for one another,'" he said.
On deck: Kekahuna has committed to play softball at Cal next season. Alconcel will play at UH-Hilo.
Mililani 5, Iolani 0
Makani Duhaylonsod scattered four hits and the Trojans played error-free defense to advance to the final.
Mililani opened quickly with a four-run first inning. Iolani starter Kelly Imada retired the first two batters of the game, but Courtney Senas singled and Duhaylonsod walked. Skye Virtudes delivered a single to center, scoring Senas, and Tierra-Lyn Cuba followed with another single up the middle to score courtesy runner Rebecca Lee. Virtudes scampered in with a third run when the ball was mishandled in center field.
Cuba scored Mililani's fourth run after Jaimee Aiwohi singled to center.
The Trojans added a single run in the top of the second when Senas doubled deep to center, bringing home Kristi Oshiro for a 5-0 lead.
The Raiders threatened in the fifth, getting runners to second and third, but Allison Chu's liner was speared by Duhaylonsod to end the inning.
Iolani made noise in the bottom of the seventh when Kai Masutani doubled and Kryn Masutani singled, but Duhaylonsod struck out Kylie Ahlo and got Chu to ground out, ending the game.
Mililani last won the state title in '05 under Mike Okimoto.