It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when Lahainaluna High School pitcher Hope Morikawa wanted to quit playing softball. She was 13 years old and more interested in hanging out at the beach with friends than being on the diamond practicing.
Her father would have none of it.
"I thought I wanted to stop playing, but then he told me that I have potential and told me to stay with it," said Morikawa, The Maui News Maui Interscholastic League Division I Player of the Year. "Some practices we used to fight a lot, but he still pushed me, and that helped a lot. I look back at it now, and having my dad there helped me realize my potential. Even though I gave him a hard time, he never gave up on me."
Lanai High School’s Kahelelani Zablan
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Lanai pitcher Kahelelani Zablan earned the Division II honor after she, like Morikawa, helped her team to an MIL title.
Lunas coach Lei Nakamura, who also coached Morikawa in youth leagues, said that even early on, Morikawa "most definitely" had the potential to be a star pitcher.
"She was a spunky little girl, and she still is now," Nakamura said. "She has a great sense of humor, great personality, and she works hard in accomplishing what she needs to do and she gets her job done."
Nakamura, who won coach of the year honors for the second consecutive season, is the "same as she's always been," according to Morikawa, who will be a senior in the fall.
"Her coaching style is once you step on that field, you better be ready to work hard. She really pushes us to get to our goals," she said. "She's still the same; she's still pushing us hard."
Zablan, who graduated last month, knows what it's like being coached by a family member - or two. The Division II player of the year reported to a pair of siblings this season: her brother Israel Zablan, named Division II coach of the year, is the Pine Lads' head coach, and sister Leinani Zablan is an assistant coach.
"Me and him, we used to fight all the time," Kahelelani Zablan said of her brother. "Whenever he told me that I was doing something wrong, I would get mad at him and at myself because I really wanted to get it right. But when it came down to the games, all his advice actually helped."
Kahelelani Zablan is the youngest of four siblings.
"Our whole family is all baseball, so she has to live up to that," Israel Zablan said. "We've all been there and done it, so this season it was her turn."
Lahainaluna has five other players on the MIL first team, including the entire infield - first baseman Kekuu Haake, second baseman Brenna Nakamura, third baseman Lithe Pokipala-Waiohu and shortstop Haley Nakamura were joined by catcher Jessica Wallace and outfielder Lyla Talaroc-Kaniho. Kamehameha Maui outfielder Uluwehi Young and utility pick Kaui Uwekoolani, Baldwin outfielder Alysha Sakamura and King Kekaulike pitcher Karlee Rose Perry are also on the first team.
Lanai's other first teamers are outfielders Nalani Plunkett and Dezsiree Dameg. Hana has seven first-teamers - pitcher Jaynalee Hoopai, first baseman Pakalana Helekahi, second baseman Brittany Smith, third baseman Makamae Smith, catcher Sina Williams, outfielder Breeze Kalalau, and utility player Shalen-Brae Hoopai. Molokai's Amanda Makaiwi is the first-team shortstop.
Lanai won the league title by defeating Hana in two straight games last month - first the tournament final and then the overall championship. Zablan reached base six times in eight plate appearances on the day.
Lahainaluna went unbeaten in the regular season, but fell to Maui High in the MIL tournament semifinals. The Lunas bounced back four days later with a win over Baldwin in the MIL overall title game, with Morikawa pitching one inning, and going 3-for-5 with three runs scored.
"If one game is going to stand out for me, it's our championship game we played against Baldwin," Nakamura said. "It was one of her best games, and not only did she do her job as a pitcher, she also did very well on offense and helped herself out."
Morikawa, who recently completed her junior year, has been considering a handful of colleges on the Mainland to continue her softball career.
"I want to go to college and play ball, and maybe get a scholarship, but I know to do that I have to work even harder-like 10 times harder than what I am now."
* Lehia Apana is at email@example.com
MIL Softball: Baldwin High School's Sanae Nakoa, Lanai's Lea Eskaran, Molokai's Kalyn Kaulia-Makaiwi, St. Anthony's Birdie Smith and Seabury Hall's Taylor Hori, Lyssa Nishikawa and Christine Kimura are Maui Interscholastic League Softball All-Star honorable mention recipients for 2012. Their names were not included in a list on Saturday.
The Maui News apologizes for the error.