WAIMEA – Based solely on earlier preseason results, one might have been tempted to form the hasty conclusion that this season would be a cake walk for the two-time defending champion Menehune.
Waimea head coach Pat Baniaga, in his tenth season at the helm of the west-side squad, most assuredly knew better.
Though his charges came away with a hard-fought 6-3 decision over the youthful Kaua’i Red Raiders in the KIF softball season opener Wednesday evening at the Waimea Canyon Ball Park, the contest could easily have gone the other way if not for the steady pitching of junior hurler Lynette Perreira and big bat of senior first baseman Ashley Lazaro.
After putting the Raiders down in order, Waimea jumped ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first as Melissa Moreno drew a lead-off walk, advanced to second on a ground-out to the left side and raced in on Perreira’s single to left.
Kaua’i stormed back to tie the game in the top of the second as Ku’ulei Manintin advanced to second on a throwing error, stole third, and scored on a second infield error.
The Menehune took the lead for good in the bottom of the third as Elena Souza (aboard with a lead-off base on balls) sprinted around the bags on Lazaro’s ringing RBI-double down the right field line.
Waimea cashed in on a walk, single and 4 Raider errors to pick up their third and fourth runs in the home half of the fourth before right fielder Manintin was moved to the mound in relief of hard-luck starter Sheri Gebauer.
After Menehune hurler Perreira completed her fourth scoreless inning of the outing, Waimea extended their advantage to 6-1 as a bases loaded walk to substitute Jenalyn Andres forced in Souza (base on balls) and a subsequent Melissa Moreno infield single plated Lazaro (hit by pitch).
The Raiders got a run back in the sixth as Ashley Silva reached third on an infield error that ended up in right field and scored on Jenna Mercado’s RBI-single through the box.
Kaua’i tallied its third run in the top of the seventh as Manintin beat out an infield single to the left side, advanced on a ground-out to short, and slid in just ahead of the tag on Kirchner’s stinging single to center field.
“I think the girls played a good game,” Baniaga said. “We had some defensive mistakes and missed signals, but overall it was a good way to start the season. Kaua’i has a lot of talent…it is going to be an interesting season this year, and we are going to do our best to repeat.”
Perreira went the distance for Waimea, and limited the Red Raiders to 3 runs, 1 earned, on 5 hits and 1 walk. She struck out 1 hitter.
Gebauer pitched into the fourth, and gave up 4 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits and 5 walks. She also struck out 1 batter. In relief for the Raiders, Manintin gave up 2 runs, both earned, on 2 hits and 2 walks in 3 innnings of work.
The Menehune (1-0) travel to Kapa’a Ball Park to battle the Warriors (0-0) in a Saturday, December 21 double-header scheduled to commence at noon. The Raiders (0-1) next take on the Warriors in a Tuesday, December 24th contest with an early start time of 10 a.m. due to the holidays.