Dedicated and determined


POSTED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Known by her teammates as a quiet leader, Leisha Liilii is intent on helping the Castle softball team go far.

“;Winning the league title is certainly a goal that our team is striving to achieve. And we also want to do well at states. Truthfully, we would like to win both,”; Liilii said. “;It's within our reach.”;

The Knights return most of their key players from last season's team, which finished tied for second with Kailua in the OIA Red East at 11-5. Additionally, Castle placed eighth in the 12-team state tourney.

The main ingredient was Liilii.

Last year at states, the junior earned a spot on the all-tournament team. In three state tourney games, she went 7-for-11 and was the winning pitcher against Hilo in a second-round game.

“;Playing at states gave me the incentive to push our team to work hard so we can win. You have to believe that if you make it to the playoffs, then you can win,”; Liilii said.

Castle athletic director Laynie Sueyasu is impressed by Liilii's influence on others.

“;She's a very quiet leader. She doesn't say much,”; Sueyasu said. “;But she brings a lot to whatever sport she plays. Her teammates know that she leads by example. Her teammates look to her for guidance in practice. When people watch her play, they soon will notice that she has exceptional abilities.”;

In the season opener against Kahuku, Liilii pitched a complete game and went 2-for-4 to help Castle to a 6-1 win. But last Saturday, Castle suffered a 5-3 loss to Kahuku in a rematch.

Despite being on the quiet side, the left-hander says teammates take her seriously.

“;There's always room for improvement,”; Liilii said. “;Improving is what I bring up every time when we have team meetings. ... I love being part of this team. That's why I'm always telling my teammates that we play OK, but we can play better.”;

Liilii wasn't always a starting pitcher.

“;I pitched when I first started playing, but that wasn't going good for me so I stopped,”; she said. “;During my freshman year at Castle, the coaches encouraged me to practice pitching. I pitched off and on. But midseason last year was when I began to pitch seriously.”;

When Liilii isn't pitching, she plays first base and takes fielding seriously.

“;It takes dedication, motivation and practice. ... Fielding is my favorite part of the game. I like it more than hitting,”; she said.

But hitting is another area where Liilii shines. She was among the OIA leaders in batting average and home runs last season.

“;It feels good when I do hit one (home run). I don't really try to hit home runs. I just always think about base hits,”; Liilii said. “;If one of my teammates is on base, I think about driving them in. Moving them forward and matching them.”;

Liilii also plays basketball and volleyball. She led the Castle girls basketball team in scoring and played middle blocker for the girls volleyball team.

“;Playing three sports helps me stay in good condition,”; she said. “;However, softball is the sport that I enjoy the most. I've been playing since I was 8 years old.

“;My parents (Jeffery and Veannie Liilii) took me to my (first softball) practice. And ever since then I wanted to constantly play. To me, at that time in my life it was exciting to play because I thought to myself that this was something that I wanted to learn. My grandfather (Siitla Liilii) really worked with me a lot when I first started off. And I think his efforts in helping me practice the game improved my skill level.”;

Now, she's focused on getting Castle deep into the postseason.

“;This is a long season,”; she said. “;But our team has a lot of potential. It's there. We just have to want to win. That why I try to help my teammates as much as I can. ... In the playoffs anything can happen.”;