WAIMEA — Strains of “Happy Birthday” blossomed from the Kapaa High School dugout Wednesday night as Leipua Kaui rounded third base — getting the traditional congratulatory hand slap from Coach Francis Takasaki — with a grand slam against Waimea at the Waimea Canyon Park.
The four-run homer helped fuel a 10-run third inning that catapulted the Warriors to a 19-3 win over the Menehune in the girls’ final appearance in the Kauai Interscholastic Federation softball season before an overflow crowd which ringed the softball field decorated for Waimea’s Senior Night celebration.
Kapaa’s win clinched the KIF softball title — its first since 1998 — for the Warriors on Kaui’s birthday.
“It feels amazing,” the Kapaa junior said following the game that was shortened to five innings on the 10-run ruling. “After all these years of hard work … I was just looking to hit whatever they threw at me.”
Kaui’s grand slam pushed her to the top of the Warriors’ hitting performance where Kapaa picked up its 19 runs on 10 hits. She ended the night by scoring three times, including twice in the third inning, with a home run and a single, pushing nine runs across the plate, including two in the third inning that came on a sacrifice bunt.
“That’s my baby,” said Aulani Kaui, Leipua’s mom. “She was just about four pounds when she was born, and look at her today. You can mention that it’s her birthday, too.”
Tia Takasaki, another junior, finished by scoring three times, hitting three singles and drove four runs home. Tyra Alao scored once, pushed a run home on a fielder’s choice bunt and singled. Selena Morita scored four times and singled to round out her senior career as a Warrior. Sophomore Kendra Kupihea singled to round out the Kapaa hitting leaders.
Kaui also picked up the victory on her final appearance on the mound, holding Waimea to just four hits, including a fifth-inning solo home run by Makeyah Wisneski, while striking out two batters, both in the fifth inning — walking one and hitting one batter.
“We kept her away from the mound until now,” first-year Kapaa coach Takasaki said. “We were working on adjusting her pitching. It took us this long to get to where we were comfortable with her work. During training, we work her to 150 to 200 pitches — she was nowhere near that tonight.”
Following Wisneski’s home run, Menehune shortstop Starlynn Ripley finished with a pair of singles and one RBI. Left fielder Cheyla Goias-Soares scored once and singled.
Following the 10-run third inning, Kapaa continued to fuel its drive to the crown with six runs on three hits and three Waimea errors in the fourth inning before sealing the victory with three runs on one hit and a pair of Menehune miscues in the fifth frame.
Waimea responded to the 10-0 deficit in the home half of the third, scoring two runs on two hits and a Kapaa error before Wisneski’s homer in the fifth frame.
“Everything we do is data-driven,” Takasaki said. “This is the moment we prepared for throughout the season. We didn’t deviate from the data. There has been fluctuations on a weekly basis, but there was no second-guessing. It’s been a success. I’m really happy for these girls. They worked very hard and deserve this moment.”
With the KIF title in hand, Kapaa prepares to represent the island at the DataHouse Hawaii High School Athletic Association softball championships Division II which will contest May 3-6 on Oahu.
“It appears that we’re going to have to work against Aiea High School or St. Francis,” Takasaki said. “We’ve faced Aiea before in other leagues, and they’ve got a strong pitcher and are aggressively offensive. But we’ve got to be ready for anything.”
Waimea closes out the KIF softball season Saturday against Kauai High School at Isenberg Park with the first pitch going at 9 a.m.