Mililani's Miki Asamura and Punahou's Sarah Weisskopf lead their teams into the state softball tournament, which begins tomorrow.

Aces look
to trump

Mililani and Punahou will try
to rebound in the state tourney
from disappointing losses

By Tim Crouse

Sarah Weisskopf watched last year's state softball tournament from the stands.

State softball

Where: Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium

When: Tomorrow through Saturday

Tickets: $7 for adults, $5 students (K-12)

Parking: $3

Her Punahou team had come up short in a bid to qualify for states, but the freshman pitcher and her teammates still showed up to watch the top teams compete.

This season, the sophomore has pitched extremely well for the Buffanblu, and when the state tournament starts tomorrow at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium, she'll be one of several aces with a chance to carry their team to a championship.

Weisskopf was 11-3 in the toughest league in the state, pitching a no-hitter against Mid-Pacific and tossing five innings of no-hit ball before coming out against Maryknoll. Her ERA in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu was 0.37.

"(At states) I need to mix it up and keep the hitters off balance," Weisskopf said. "There's a lot of good hitters. I just try to stay relaxed because I know the defense has my back.

"In the beginning of the season I was trying to blow it by people. But I learned that to be successful I have to mix it up a lot and my defense makes all the plays."

Weisskopf said she likes to throw her changeup, but also has a screwball, a curve, a rise and a drop.

"The changeup is a hard (pitch) to learn. But when I finally got it down the batters had a hard time with it," she said.

One of the pitchers Weisskopf watched at states last year was Mililani's Miki Asamura. The Trojans came up short in their bid to win it all, but Asamura is back for a final shot at an elusive state crown.

Weisskopf and Asamura are trying to lead their teams to a first state championship.

"It took a lot of hard work to get here," Weisskopf said. "We have to have a positive attitude and we can't underestimate any teams."

Tournament No. 1 seed Kailua (13-0) ended Mililani's 62-game Oahu Interscholastic Association winning streak on Saturday in the OIA championship game -- handing Asamura her first league loss in her varsity career. Mililani had won four consecutive OIA titles before last weekend.

"After we lost, everybody was down, but everyone's really optimistic (about states)," Asamura said. "We're thinking that since we lost in OIAs maybe we'll do well in states this year. That's what we really want."

The Trojans reached their first state title game in Asamura's freshman season. Mililani, with Asamura starting at third base, lost to Iolani in that game -- as Raiders ace Mitzi Ing threw a perfect game.

"It felt good to be there," Asamura said. "I really want to be there this year, at least the championship game. I dream about (winning a title). It's my senior year, I want to go all out."

Asamura has been pitching since she was a sophomore, and is having the best year of her career. She threw two perfect games and a no-hitter during a 6-0 regular season. She was 2-1 during the OIA tournament. But Asamura said she doesn't concern herself with being the ace.

"I just go out and pitch," she said. "I don't think about that kind of stuff. Honestly, I don't think I'm as great a pitcher as people say I am, it's mostly the defense. All you have to do is give them something to work with, as long as (the hitters) aren't ripping the ball everywhere. That's pretty much the goal as a pitcher."

JUST LIKE MILILANI, Weisskopf and the Buffanblu also lost in their league title game, falling 1-0 to Kamehameha on Feb. 5.

A key to this week's tournament is how Asamura and Weisskopf, and their respective teams, rebound from disappointing losses.

"I like our chances, but we've got to get better," Punahou coach Kristl Okuhara Chinen said after the loss to the Warriors. "The girls are really emotional now, but our work in practice will take away the hurt. Losing a close one like that will work to make (us) better. "

Kailua's Courtney Kessell and Kamehameha's tandem of Kate Robinson and Brandi Peiler also have the ability to carry their teams through this week.

Kessell's Surfriders reached the state title game a year ago, and with the way she's pitched this year -- 10-0 with 98 strikeouts in 64 innings -- Kailua is a clear favorite to reach the final again.

The Surfriders haven't given up a run the past six games, dating back to Jan. 18, and Kessell hasn't allowed a run since way back on Dec. 28.

Kessell has also helped herself at the plate the second half of the season, getting several key hits in the OIA tournament, and has been aided on offense by Loke Lastimosa and Kainoa Hughes.

Kailua has won the most state titles (nine), and defending champion and No. 2 seed Kamehameha (15-2) has won seven times.

The Warriors were tested in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, but survived to finish on top again. Ty Sing Chow's team has reached the state final the past two years, losing to Baldwin in 2001 and beating Kailua last season.

"There are so many good teams in the state, but only 12 can go to the states," Sing Chow said. "Good teams like Iolani, Campbell and Kaimuki (didn't) make it. We're fortunate that we are one of those teams, but you can't count out any of the 12 teams."

Peiler and Robinson have also helped their pitching causes with strong hitting, and all-state shortstop Sharee Fonoti and catcher Kaulana Gould have also made major contributions.

Maui Interscholastic League champion Baldwin (14-3) is the No. 3 seed. Senior Sabrina Alesna-Mindoro and junior Angela Larose have led Ryan Souza's Bears from the pitching circle. Baldwin has some veterans, including senior all-state outfielder Zoie Sevilla.

Rounding out the seeded teams is Kauai Interscholastic Federation champion Waimea (10-2).

Hilo (10-1) won the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, but enters the tournament unseeded.

Bracket changed: The HHSAA revised the tournament schedule last night.

Under state tournament rules, a league champion and a league runner-up are not supposed to be in the same bracket.

Originally, Big Island Interscholastic Federation champ Hilo was in the same bracket as second-place Waiakea.

In the new schedule, which follows, Waiakea and Castle have switched brackets so the HHSAA can better conform to the rules.

Chevron State Softball
Championship Tournament

(All games at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium)
Seeded teams
1. Kailua (13-0), 2-Kamehameha (15-2), 3. Baldwin (14-3), 4. Waimea (10-2).
Wednesday, Feb. 12
Game 1: Lahainaluna vs. Leilehua, 1 p.m.
Game 2: Hilo vs. Kapolei, 3 p.m.
Game 3: Punahou vs. Waiakea, 5 p.m.
Game 4: Mililani vs. Castle, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 13
Game 5: Losers of Games 1 and 3, 11 a.m.
Game 6: Waimea vs. Winner Game 3, 1 p.m.
Game 7: Kailua vs. Winner Game 1, 3 p.m.
Game 8: Kamehameha vs. Winner Game 2, 5 p.m.
Game 9: Baldwin vs. Winner Game 4, 7 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 14
Game 10: Losers of Games 2 and 4, noon
Game 11: Losers of Games 6 and 7, 2 p.m.
Game 12: Losers of Games 8 and 9, 4 p.m.
Game 13: Winners of Games 8 and 9, 6 p.m.
Game 14: Winners of Games 6 and 7, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 15
Game 15: Winners of Games 5 and 10, 2 p.m.
Game 16: Winners of Games 11 and 12, 4 p.m.
Game 17: Losers of Games 13 and 14, 6 p.m.
Game 18: Winners of Games 13 and 14, 8 p.m.

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