Kessell outpitches

Last night's showdown between top-seed Punahou and perennial power Kailua in the HHSAA/Data House State Softball Championships met all expectations.

The game showcased two of the best pitchers in the state in Punahou's Sarah Weisskopf and Kailua's Courtney Kessell. With Kailua being a 10-time state champion and Punahou the state's last remaining unbeaten team, it promised to be the game of the year.

And it was.

Complete with strong performances by both Weisskopf and Kessell and a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the sixth by Shyenne Hussey, Kailua's 2-1 victory was all the 1,039 fans at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium could have hoped for.

Except that it was a quarterfinal game.

"Having to meet them in our first game of the tournament was tough," Punahou coach Kristl Chinen said. "We knew that we were going to have to beat Kailua at some point anyway. If you wanna be the best, you have to beat the best, and tonight they were better than us."

Indeed Kailua made all the plays it had to make and came through with the big hits when opportunities arose.

Kessell and Weisskopf matched each other pitch-for-pitch through the first three frames and it seemed the first team to score would win.

Kailua scored first, in the bottom of the fourth when Alisha Vegas blooped a two-out single just beyond the reach of diving Punahou right fielder Adrienne Tanaka, scoring Hussey from second base.

Punahou responded with a single run in the top of the sixth. Consecutive one-out base hits by Shanna Lei Dacanay, Gail Matsushima and Weisskopf rallied Punahou for its only run of the game.

But Hussey quickly gave Kailua the only other run it would need, as she launched a 2-2 Weisskopf offering about 30-feet beyond the right-center field fence.

From there, Kessell got back into her groove and sent the Buffanblu down in order in the top of the seventh to send the Surfriders into tonight's semifinal game against Mililani at 8.

"I felt we had a pretty good chance against them," Kailua coach Bernard Victor said. "We knew they'd be tough and both pitchers threw very well, but Courtney was up for it."

Kessell finished with seven strikeouts and no walks while spacing six hits, helping Kailua improve to 16-1 for the season.

"It was a big game," Kessell said. "We were so up for it. It's going to be tough having to play four games to have a chance to win it, but I think we can do it. The team's up right now, and we're playing together."

Kapolei 6, Kaimuki 2: Defending state champion Kapolei advanced to today's semifinals by defeating fellow OIA member Kaimuki in a contest marred by eight defensive miscues.

Kapolei (13-4) committed four errors but was able to overcome their sluggish play thanks to the efforts of 2004 All-State selection Tajia Acierto. The junior right-hander spaced five hits and allowed two unearned runs in earning the complete-game victory, adding a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth.

Acierto's blast came at an opportune time for the Hurricane, who had seen their early lead dwindle to a one-run edge after Kaimuki (9-9) rallied for two runs in the top of the fifth.

Following Genesis Fruean's groundout to open the inning, Chelsea Gornichec reached on a dropped infield pop-up. After a fielder's choice allowed Kanoe Nicola to reach first, Kapolei dropped another infield pop to put Kaimuki into scoring position. A walk and another Hurricane error plated two Bulldog runs.

Sparked by Acierto's blast, Kapolei responded to Kaimuki's rally with a three-run attack of their own to keep the Bulldogs at bay.

Kapolei faces OIA West Division foe Pearl City tonight at 6 in the first semifinal.

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