Leisha Liilii might have some memorable moments at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium down the road.
But it’ll be tough to top her performance last night.
The Castle senior hit two home runs, drove in six runs and came through with clutch relief pitching to power the Knights past defending state champion Campbell 9-7 in eight innings and into the Division I title game of the DataHouse/HHSAA State Softball Championship.
Castle will play Mid-Pacific in tonight’s final.
Campbell, the tournament’s top seed and defending state champion, took leads of 5-0 and 7-2 early in the game. But Liilii led Castle back, and her second home run of the game, a two-run shot to left field in the eighth inning, sent the Knights into the final.
“It’s one of our goals just to make the state tournament,” said Castle head coach Jon Berinobis. “We’re here and now we get to play for it. One more step and I hope we can keep this up.”
Yesterday’s game marked the fourth consecutive postseason tournament that featured a Campbell-Castle matchup in the semifinals. Last year, Campbell lost to Castle in the OIA tournament then got past the Knights 3-0 on its way to the state tournament title. The Sabers held off the Knights again in a 7-6 win last month to advance to the OIA final.
Liilii drew on the comeback that fell just short in the last meeting to stay focused when the Sabers bolted ahead yesterday.
“It felt like the Campbell game during OIAs when we were down and came back toward the end and that’s where my faith came,” Liilii said. “Believing that we can come back in situations like this because we’re an offensive team and we’re strong one through nine.”
The third spot in the order was particularly strong last night, with the University of Hawaii signee going 4-for-5 at the plate.
She had an RBI single in the third, a two-run homer into the UH tennis courts in the fifth and another run-scoring single in the sixth, when Castle finally caught the Sabers to tie the game 7-7.
Still, Campbell had a chance to win it in the bottom of the seventh, when the Sabers loaded the bases with one out. But the Knights escaped with a forceout at home and a strikeout to force extra innings. After Liilii gave the Knights their first lead of the game in the top of the eighth, Campbell again loaded the bases. After a grounder to third led to another forceout at the plate, Liilii started a 1-2-3 double play to end the game.
“The best feeling I’ve ever felt in my four years playing here,” Liilii said after earning her third win of the tournament. “It’s unexplainable.”
Berinobis, whose father was an assistant on the Castle team that won the inaugural state championship in 1977, will get to experience a state final for the first time since taking over the program in 1992, having endured several nerve-wracking moments last night in an already dramatic tournament for the Knights.
When Campbell put the winning run in scoring position in the seventh yesterday, Berinobis went out to talk to settle his defense.
“I just went out there and told them, ‘What a game we’re in.’ I said, ‘We can do this,’ ” Berinobis said. “They believed in themselves and they got it done.”
Maycee Moe, Leisha Liilii (4) and Kaisha Dacosin. Summer Palipti, Sharae Esprecion (5) and Kawehi Kahana, Daylene Antonio (5). W—Liilii. L—Esprecion.
Leading hitters—Cast: Liilii 4-5, 2 HRs, 6 RBIs; Moe 4-5, RBI; Kamaka Silva 2-3; Brittany Hawn 2b. Camp: Esprecion 4-5; Kayce Konohia 2-4, RBI; Palipti 2-5; Collette Black 2b.
Mid-Pacific 12, Leilehua 1
The Owls trounced the Mules in six innings to advance to the Division I State Championship today against Castle at 7 p.m.
Campbell will face Leilehua for the third place game at 3 p.m.
Keiki Carlos and Kaydi Kochi. Maegan Tupinio, Taezha-Ann Cordero (6), Malia Nakai (6) and Jasmine Villegas. W—Carlos. L—Tupinio.
Leading hitters—MPI: Tori Hamura 2-3, 2b, 3 RBIs; Kochi 2-3, 2 RBIs; Kacy Aoki 2 RBIs; Haley Kodama 2-3, 2b, RBI; Tasi Docktor 2-3; Lindsey Matoi 2-4; Carlos 2b, RBI. Lei: Tupinio 1-3.
Baldwin 11, Waiakea 3, 5 innings
The Bears trounced the Warriors with Tayler Shimizu leading the offense, going 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs.
Kaitlin Watanabe and Sarah Abe, Raena Bulusan (4). Chelsea Camello and Ariana Mareko. W—Watanabe. L—Camello.
Leading hitters—Bald: Tayler Shimizu 3-3, 2b, 2 RBIs; Kylie-Rose Dickson 3-4, 2 RBIs; Kailin Awai 2-4, 2 RBIs; Alysha Sakamura 2-3, RBI; Anela Asuncion 2-3. Waik: Mareko 2-3; Skyler Agrigado 1-3, RBI.
Kapolei 4, Lahainaluna 4 (Kapolei wins tiebreaker)
The Hurricanes and Lunas ended in a 4-4 tie after five innings because of the time limit. Kapolei was awarded the victory on the tiebreaker (hits minus errors).
Hope Morikawa and Tricia Bonifacio. Winona Pauline and Brianna Tovio-Asato, Aimee Aipa. W—Pauline. L—Morikawa.
Leading hitters—Lah: Jessica Wallace 2-3. Kapo: Mikela Manewa 2B, 2 runs.
Punahou 19, Kealakehe 0, 5 innings
Jaci Young, Tai Manu-Olevao and Kacie Kiyuna combined on a five-inning one-hitter as the Buffanblu routed the Waveriders.
Punahou pounded out 22 hits, including a homer by Vanessa Va‘a.
Jaci Young, Tai Manu-Olevao (4), Kacie Kiyuna (4) and Kayla Shimoda. Ashley Isisaki and Kaleanani Hakamau. W—Young. L—Isisaki.
Leading hitters—Pun: Reina Furuya 2-5; Kylie Popovich 2B; Mysha Sataraka 2-3, 2B, 3 runs; Shimoda 2-5, 2B, 4 runs; Young 2-3, 2B, 2 runs; Alexis deFries 2B, 2-3, 2 runs; Arianna Hashimoto 3-3; Vanessa Va‘a 3-3, HR, 2 runs.