By KEVIN JAKAHI Hawaii Tribune-Herald
Kohala junior ace Mikayla Kekoa and Konawaena sophomore ace Shaylann Grace tangled in a good old-fashioned pitchers’ extra-innings duel in Kapaau, where the Cowgirls do their best work at home.
The two right-handers each fired four-hitters, but the Cowgirls scored in the bottom of the eighth to prevail 4-3 over the Wildcats in a BIIF Division II showdown on Monday, pushing their record to 7-2 at home.
In eight innings of three-run ball, Kekoa was dominant and efficient with 11 strikeouts and only one walk in a complete-game gem for Kohala (11-4), which plays at Honokaa (9-5) on Tuesday.
Grace gave up four runs and was just as good. She whiffed six and walked only one for Konawaena (10-5), which plays at Kamehameha (11-2) on Tuesday.
With a runner on second in the eighth, Kohala senior Nicole Castillo put down a bunt, and the winning run scored on the play.
The Cowgirls had difficulty finding base hits off Grace, so they tested her defense with bunts. And Kekoa was cranking out punchouts in the circle.
“Mikayla pitched a mean game,” Kohala coach Terrance Alcoran said. “We won the game on bunts. We had perfect timing with our bunts. It’s a big win for us, and I like playing on our home field.”
Sophomore outfielder Laila Cararvalho led Kohala with two hits.
Grace paired hits for the Wildcats.
Unlike baseball (where the lower seed hosts Game 2 and there’s a coin flip for home field for Game 3), the top two seeds to the four-team softball BIIF playoffs are rewarded with home-field advantage.
Earlier, Kohala beat Honokaa 4-0. If the Cowgirls win the rematch and secure the No. 2 seed to the best-of-three BIIF semifinals, they would host a doubleheader on Saturday and if necessary Game 3 on Monday, April 23.
Since statewide classification started in 2004, last year was the first time the BIIF had four teams at states: Kamehameha, Konawaena, Kohala, and Honokaa. (There will be four state berths again.)
The Warriors have won the last six BIIF Division II championships.
They’ve lost only to Kohala and Waiakea. In a 4-3 loss to the Cowgirls, Kekoa fired a seven-hitter against Kamehameha.