St. Francis beats Punahou to prove it’s worthy in any softball division
St. Francis’ 11-7 win over Punahou wasn’t just about proving that the ILH Division II Saints could compete with the best. It was about showing that it would have.
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St. Francis’ 11-7 win over Punahou wasn’t just about proving that the ILH Division II Saints could compete with the best.
It was about showing that it would have.
Approximately three weeks after a petition to jump to the Division I ranks this season for ILH and state competition was denied twice, the No. 9 Saints (11-4) showed their mettle and stopped a 13-game winning streak for the No. 2 Buffanblu (13-3) in the process.
“It’s a statement win,” St. Francis coach Randy Langsi said. “It meant a lot for us to finish strong. We got to show that, hey, we got enough talent.
“Not only that, but the school is (about to be) closed. Every game is like the last game. Every game we’re playing for is a statement win. There’s a lot behind this team that’s gonna motivate us heading into state.”
The no-tomorrow approach seems appropriate for a school that faces closure at the end of May. But on Friday afternoon at Ala Wai park, the task of facing a team as scorching as Punahou was formidable enough on its own.
The Saints got it done behind Kaena Keliinoi’s two home runs and stellar defense behind the plate, as well as Shaylann Grace’s winning effort in relief. Grace helped her own cause with two doubles.
For Keliinoi, who has signed to play for Hawaii next season, Friday’s date was one to circle on the calendar.
“We’ve been waiting for this game all season,” Keliinoi said. “The first time we played them (a 7-6 loss on March 20), we beat ourselves.
“But hats off to them because they have really good bats and really good defense. All around, they’re a good team in the ILH. We just worked hard this week and nothing was going to stop us.”
St. Francis opened up the scoring with three runs off four Punahou errors in the bottom of the second. Keliinoi added to the lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the third to make it 4-0.
Punahou shortstop and California signee D’asha Saiki got the Buffanblu on the board with a solo blast of her own in the top of the fourth.
After Tiani Wayton’s three-run homer in the fifth cut the deficit to 5-4, St. Francis starter Sierrah Kupihea was pulled in favor of Grace. Saiki was the first hitter Grace faced. After drawing a full count walk, Saiki scored the tying run on a single by Ashanti Martinez.
“I was a little nervous. I was telling myself to not give away anything because I know (Saiki) is a good hitter,” Grace said. “I know I walked her, but it’s better than a home run.”
Keliinoi broke the tie with her second solo shot of the day to lead off the bottom of the fifth. St. Francis added four more runs in the bottom of the sixth, led by Grace’s second double of the game, to extend its lead to 11-5 entering the top of the seventh.
“We can battle, we’ve been saying it this whole season,” Keliinoi said. “Although our school is closing, we just want to make a statement and this game showed it.”
Grace faced the top of Punahou’s lineup to start the seventh. Wayton and Saiki were driven in on a two-out single by Martinez, but Grace limited the damage by getting Asia Lee to ground out in the next at-bat to end the game.
Grace earned the win in 2 1⁄3 innings of relief, taming the Buffanblu lineup by scattering four hits and two walks.
“We all had a game plan heading into this game — minimize errors, get hits, and that’s what we did,” Grace said. “We executed and we got it done.”
A win for Punahou would’ve sealed the ILH Division I regular season title and an automatic state berth. Instead, the Buffanblu take on No. 4 ‘Iolani (13-3) in a tiebreaker on Monday.