LIHUE — In a game in which both team combined for nine home runs, the Red Raiders endured to win on a walk-off.
Kauai High School’s varsity softball team defeated Waimea High, 16-15, Wednesday night at Isenberg Park in Lihue in the Kauai Interscholastic Federation season opener.
“It felt amazing. My girls worked hard the past three weeks that I’ve had them,” said Kauai first-year head coach Shana Tafiti. “We did fight a lot of ups and downs, but every team does. So, I’m proud of them. I’m just hoping to keep continuing this road up.”
In the bottom of the seventh inning with the game tied at 15-15, with two outs and runners on first and second base, Red Raiders shortstop Justice Funamura-Sasil hit an RBI single to left field to drive in the runner from second. Outfielder Naomi Macferren scored on Funamura-Sasil’s hit to deliver Kauai the win in the season opener.
Funamura-Sasil ended 2-3 with two singles, two RBIs and scored three runs.
“It meant a lot to me,” Funamura-Sasil said of the walk-off hit. “These last four years were a rough ride. I’ve put a lot into this program. It’s just the next step. We just got to keep going.”
Kauai (1-0 KIF) hit four home runs and Waimea knocked five HRs in Wednesday’s contest.
“The two sides, they played good. They played really good,” said Waimea head coach Teddy Perreira.
In the top of the third inning, Waimea (0-1 KIF) hit three consecutive solo home runs. First baseman Kieren Henderson, second baseman Kalea Huihui-Caberto and outfielder Leiko Yamauchi hit those solo blasts in the inning.
The Menehune girls scored nine runs on 10 hits in the top of the third to get an 11-3 lead.
Huihui-Caberto totaled three home runs, two in the third inning, and five RBIs. She had a chance at a grand slam for a fourth home run sixth inning, but ended up reaching on a fielder’s choice.
“She’s only a freshman. That’s good for her,” Perreira said of Huihui-Caberto. “Her last time up, she wasn’t disciplined at the plate. She was chasing a bit.”
Perreira said of the team losing its lead in the seventh: “My pitcher just had to throw strikes. She was missing a lot of pitches and was throwing up in the zone. I took a chance. I walked (the Kauai batter), and maybe a force-out would come up. They’re good hitters, and they had the right timing. They had good batters up at bat. Like I said, the season’s young.”
Facing an uphill climb, Kauai worked out of the early deficit and leveled the score at 11-11 after scoring six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Red Raiders first baseman Kassidie Bukoski hit a three-RBI home run to left field, and starting pitcher Drenalynn Tafiti hit a two-RBI home run to center field in the inning.
Bukoski had a two-home run night against Waimea, going 3-4 with two home runs and a double, an intentional walk and had four RBIs.
Waimea took a 16-15 lead in the top of the seventh inning when Menehune outfielder Taira Abreu crossed home plate on a wild pitch. Before Funamura-Sasil’s walk-off hit in the bottom of the seventh, Kauai evened the score at 15-15 on an RBI single by Macferren.
Though Kauai tied the score a number of times, the Red Raiders didn’t hold a lead until Funamura-Sasil’s walk-off base hit in the seventh inning.
“I think it’s because of having that type of belief and mindset,” Funamura-Sasil said. “We’ve had a rough time because of this new coach that just came in. We only had a few weeks to develop a new team. We just had that belief mindset, and we couldn’t let her down, as well as ourselves. We just had to stay in the game the whole time.”
Tafiti said of working out of the deficit: “You can’t teach fight. I told them that from the beginning. They have to fight for themselves. So, we gave them all the tools that I could, the coaching staff. We try to make them successful. It’s just up to them. The game is their time to shine.”
The season continues Saturday when Kauai plays at Kapaa High School (0-0 KIF) for a doubleheader. The first game is scheduled for 10 a.m.
Waimea will host Kapaa at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Waimea Canyon Park.
The student becomes a teacher
Tafiti, a 2008 Waimea High School graduate, played for Perreira during her time in high school. Since then, she played collegiately at Central Arizona College and Angelo State University in Texas. She’s also played for USA Baseball.
Now to be coaching opposite her old coach, Tafiti said Perreira is “an amazing coach” but nonetheless aims to beat him as head coach for Kauai High.
“We’re just competitive. I got a lot of knowledge from him growing up,” she said. “I’m proud to say that I played for him. Me and a lot of my coaching staff are from Waimea and played for him. So, we know each others’ up and downs. We know what to expect from each other because we played with each other for so long.”
Perreira said of coaching against his former protégé: “I think Kauai High School was a little more hungry. My hats off to my high school players there, the coaches. They did a very good job, and it was a good game.”
Kauai: 16 runs, 15 hits, four runners left on base, four errors; winning pitcher: Drenalynn Tafiti, seven strikeouts, three walks, two hit-by-pitches; stat leader: Kassidie Bukoski, 3-4, two home runs, double, one intentional walk, four RBIs, two runs
Waimea: 15 runs, 17 hits, 11 runners left on base, seven errors; losing pitcher: Nikayla Oyamot-Taniguchi, one strikeout, three walks, one hit-by-pitch; stat leader: Kalea Huihui-Caberto, 3-4, three home runs, five RBIs, three runs
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.