Championships are made of this, and for the overflow crowd that filled the bleachers and overflowed along the fencelines, there was no leaving early.
Kaua‘i battled back against an early Waimea lead, and with her energy ebbing in the chilly night air, Waimea pitcher Cassie Koerte walked home the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 7-6 win.
“After the game against Kapa‘a, we could’ve given up, but the girls asked if we could practice on Sunday,” Kaua‘i coach Darrell Borrero said following their marathon championship game. “They practiced for three hours. They wanted to be here, and that’s when I knew we had something.”
That walk settled a game that saw Kaua‘i on the catch-up end throughout the night after Waimea asserted itself with two runs in the first inning.
Wailana Borrero singled to open the bottom of the first and scored on a Jessica Iwata RBI single, but that was all Kaua‘i could muster as they left two runners on.
Jondi Horner, courtesy running for Koerte in the fourth, upped the lead 3-1 by scoring on a passed ball only to have Kaua‘i catcher Sam Koga answer in the bottom of the frame with a solo in-the-park homerun, the first of two whacked by the Raiders.
That ignited the crowd on both sides of the field as Waimea loaded the bases in the sixth inning with two outs. But, Kaua‘i stranded the three Menehune runners as Amanda Mayer fielded the Tatum Gonsalves’ shot to end the threat.
Waimea increased the lead to 4-2 in the seventh as Moani Durant, drawing first on a walk, scored off a Shana Tafiti RBI single. An error off Ona Defabian’s hit scored Tafiti for the 2-run bulge.
“It’s not over, and we can do this,” Borrero said he told the girls as they faced a 3-run deficit.
With their No.5-6-7-8-9 batters up, Kaua‘i battled back in the bottom as Krystal Ijima singled and scored off a Waimea error resulting from Nicole Larue’s at-bat.
“The non-role players really stepped it up,” Borrero said. “The Jaspers, the Dois, they stepped up when it really counted and pulled us back in the game.”
Mayer singled and a 2-RBI triple off Jori Jasper to deep leftfield tied the contest with no outs.
But Koerte forced the game into extra innings by shutting down three straight batters.
“It felt like it was a brand-new game just going into extra innings,” Kaua‘i pitcher Wailana Borrero said.
Kelcie Igne opened the extra frame on a single and scored on a Moani Durant bunt only to have Iwata answer with another ITP homer.
Iwata opened the bottom of the 10th on a double followed by Koga walking, and Ijima beat out a bunt to load the bags.
Larue entered the box and a walk to her pushed Iwata across for the win — and the KIF title!
“It feels wonderful,” Wailana said. “This is the third year in a row we’re going to States.”
The State HHSAA Division I and Division II championships will be played Feb. 7 through 10 on O‘ahu. Kaua‘i will compete in Division II.