[ HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL ]
Kessell starts season
The Kailua softball team rode another stellar pitching performance by Courtney Kessell and the clutch hitting of fellow senior Erin Guerrero to open their title defense of their OIA East Division crown with a 2-0 win over visiting Kahuku.
Guerrero, a second team All-State pick last year, made the first hit of this season a big one, driving in the game's only runs with a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth.
Kailua designated player Shayla Kamaka led off the inning with a walk and was replaced at first by flex player Krista Dumanadan. Brittney Tokunaga pushed Dumanadan to second with a sacrifice bunt to put the potential go-ahead run at second base.
After a ground out, Rusty-Ann Borges reached on a walk, putting runners at the corners with two outs. Borges promptly stole second to set the stage for Guerrero's heroics.
Behind in the count 0-2, Guerrero got extended on a Kamaile Hughes offering and drilled it into right-center field for the game-winner.
"I was just thinking that I better do it now, we better not lose," Guerrero said. "I got a good pitch to hit and it felt good."
Arguably the most dominant pitcher in the state, Kessell posted the complete-game win, allowing only two base hits while striking out 14 Red Raiders and walking none.
"I never really come into a game with a plan," Kessell said. "I go out and try all of my pitches and see what's working and stick with it. I'm really happy with our win. It's my last year and I really want to do well."
Kessell, who has committed to play for Hawaii Pacific University next year, opened the game by striking out the side in consecutive innings. Kessell retired the next five batters in order before former Surfrider teammate Hughes rolled a two-out single into right field for Kahuku.
The two-time All-State pick and 2003 state player of the year responded by setting down the Red Raiders in order to move into the sixth, when Kahuku put together its only scoring threat of the game.
Kahuku outfielder Jessica Atuaia led off with a single to right and advanced to second when Keli Saniatan slapped a grounder toward third that was misplayed by the Kailua infield. But Kessell worked out of the rally by retiring the side on an infield pop-up, a ground ball and a flyout to left field.
A rejuvenated Kessell returned to the pitcher's circle in the seventh and struck out all three Kahuku batters she faced on 12 pitches.
Kailua junior third baseman Sheyenne Hussey enjoyed an outstanding day at the plate, going a perfect 3-for-3 with a double and a triple to record half of the game's total hit tally.
"It's always good to win the first one," said longtime Kailua coach Bernard Victor. "Hopefully we can hit a little better, although Sheyenne was good today. It was a well-played game that could've gone either way, but Courtney was on today and she was using her rise well."