Sabers snag state spot

Kaupe hits two-run, walkoff homer in ninth to give Maui High 6-4 victory over Baldwin

Maui High School’s Nawai Kaupe is congratulated by teammates after receiving her MIL runner-up medal Tuesday night at Patsy Mink Field after the Sabers defeated Baldwin 6-4 in nine innings to win the MIL Division I second-place playoff game. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui High School’s Nawai Kaupe is congratulated by teammates after receiving her MIL runner-up medal Tuesday night at Patsy Mink Field after the Sabers defeated Baldwin 6-4 in nine innings to win the MIL Division I second-place playoff game. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAHULUI — Nawai Kaupe saved her best for last.

In her final at-bat on the Valley Isle, she smacked a towering two-run homer into the night, giving her Maui High School softball team a 6-4, nine-inning win over Baldwin on Tuesday at Patsy Mink Field.

It wasn’t until the ball hit high off the light post about 220 feet away that Kaupe realized that she had just sent the Sabers to the state tournament for the second year in a row.

Maui High (10-5) beat Baldwin (9-6) for the third time in five meetings this season — Tuesday night’s game was a second-place playoff game for the Maui Interscholastic League’s final state berth.

“Well, you know, I’ve got to take every at-bat like it’s my last,” said Kaupe, who has signed to play for the University of Washington next season. “I not only did it for the team, I did it not only for myself, but for the whole of Maui. I’m so glad to be up there and do what we do.”

The Sabers’ Destiny Kama hits a third-inning RBI single to right field. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Sabers’ Destiny Kama hits a third-inning RBI single to right field. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Kaupe was up to bat for the fifth time in the game after being moved to the leadoff spot in the lineup for the first time all season. Coach Mark Lau Hee said it was a move made after teams took the opportunity to pitch around Kaupe several times this year.

“We talked about it at the last practice,” Lau Hee said. “We were thinking about it earlier in the season, but she never felt comfortable, so I didn’t want to do it. Yesterday, we had a good talk with her. She said, ‘Coach, they’re pitching around me.’ So we figured we’d get one of our better base runners up there early and that was a good move.”

Kaupe’s ringing double to the center-field wall in the second gave the Sabers a 1-0 lead. Her grounder in the sixth was misplayed for an error that tied the game at 4-4.

Her no-doubt homer came with no outs in the bottom of the ninth and ended a nearly three-hour game after No. 9 hitter Makana Nakanishi led off the inning with a single to left field.

“Awesome game, hats off to Baldwin, they came to bring it also and it was all the way down to the end,” Lau Hee said. “That home run was crazy. I don’t know what to say, brah, just awesome, man. I’m just so happy for the seniors.”

Baldwin catcher Saree-Ann Kekahuna sets to tag out Maui High’s Kaimi Lay Fuentes in the third inning Tuesday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Baldwin catcher Saree-Ann Kekahuna sets to tag out Maui High’s Kaimi Lay Fuentes in the third inning Tuesday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Baldwin tied the game 2-2 in the fourth on a squeeze bunt by Avei Silifaiva and a run-scoring wild pitch. The Bears took a 4-3 lead in the sixth when runs scored on an error and wild pitch.

Melia Paet’s RBI single in the fourth gave the Sabers a 3-2 lead.

Baldwin coach Sanoe Keka-huna played for California-Berkeley. After the game, she marveled at the latest Pacific-12 Conference-bound softball player from the Valley Isle.

“You love to watch this kind of games played,” Kekahuna said. “Nine innings, that’s more than anything you can say, but that was a really awesome game. Awesome player, awesome team, they will represent Maui really well.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

The Sabers’ Cira Bartolotti pitches during the fifth inning. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Sabers’ Cira Bartolotti pitches during the fifth inning. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Baldwin 000 202 000–4 4 3

Maui High 011 101 002–6 6 2

Aliya Harmon and Saree-Ann Kekahuna; Cira Bartolotti and Makana Nakanishi. W–Bartolotti. L–Harmon. 2B–Maui High: Nawai Kaupe. HR–Maui High: Kaupe.

Leading hitters–Baldwin: Kekahuna 2-4, 2 runs. Maui High: Kaupe 2-5, 2 runs, 3 RBIs; Nakanishi 2-3, 2 runs.

Maui High’s Nawai Kaupe follows through on an RBI double in the second inning. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui High’s Nawai Kaupe follows through on an RBI double in the second inning. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

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