POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 5, 2011
Castle Softball, basketball GPA: 3.16 College choice: Hawaii
In the words of Castle softball coach Jon Berinobis, Leisha Liilii is the kind of athlete “who comes around once in 30 years.”
Berinobis saw a humble, hard-working young player enter Castle as a freshman, and he saw a celebrated, All-State pitcher and first baseman graduate this spring.
Liilii’s 6-foot-1 frame intimidated opponents, but her soft-spoken, diligent methods of leadership endeared her to her coaches and teammates.
She took it upon herself, along with her fellow seniors, to build a unified squad this year, and the results were fantastic: Castle reached the state championship game and pushed top-seeded Mid-Pacific to extra innings before falling.
“Coming together as a team, we bonded better than my first two years,” she said. “You have to have good chemistry on the field and feel comfortable around your teammates, knowing you can trust each other. Without bonding, we wouldn’t reach our full potential.”
Liilii was voted by coaches and media the Position Player of the Year with a .615 batting average in OIA play. She swatted six homers, drove in 25 runs and scored 24 times in league play. In the state tourney, her game escalated. She had nine hits in four games with three homers, including a mammoth shot off the light pole in deep center field at UH Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
Perhaps more impressive than her Ruthian swing is a combination of traits that make her an ideal leader.
Though she’s not the most talkative athlete, there’s a steely interior that refused to accept a stumble in the postseason. A loss to Campbell in the OIA playoffs became motivational fuel for Castle’s state-tourney run.
“The whole team lost confidence. It was hard. But we still had a chance at states, so we trained harder,” she said. “We talked about supporting each other and not getting down on ourselves. Not giving up.”
Castle’s tough road included close wins over Punahou, Lahainaluna and Campbell before the title-game loss to MPI.
Liilii also was a four-year starter in basketball and was named to the OIA Red East all-star first team three times.
Liilii, who had a 3.2 grade-point average, is working hard already on her next adventure, hitting the weight room and running, and pitching and hitting for Oahu Brand softball club. She will play for Hawaii next season.