Bears close in on state with victory over Lunas

Bears’ eight-hit attack, including three doubles, backs Harmon in 7-3 win

Aliya Harmon of Baldwin High School releases a pitch during the second inning of the Bears’ 7-3 victory over Lahainaluna on Saturday at Patsy Mink Field. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAHULUI — The Baldwin High School softball team has not been to the state tournament since winning the Maui Interscholastic League Division I title in 2015.

After a 7-3 win over Lahainaluna through the rain on Saturday at Patsy Mink Field, the Bears are on the verge of clinching a return to state.

Baldwin is now 9-0 in the MIL Division I race after banging out eight hits, three of which were doubles, to back a six-hit, complete-game performance in the circle by Aliya Harmon. Harmon struck out three and walked six in a 148-pitch effort.

Harmon surrendered a run in the first inning on a bases-loaded walk, but the Bears struck for two runs in the second inning on an RBI double by Jessica Ai and an RBI groundout by Jordyn Vierra. They wouldn’t trail again.

“The first inning my emotions were everywhere just because we were down,” Harmon said. “After we got the lead, I think I was better. The whole team was better actually.”

Lahainaluna's Nohili Hong scores a third-inning run as Baldwin High catcher Saree-Ann Kekahuna covers the plate. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

After the Lunas tied the game on a sacrifice fly by Kaaina Kalanikau in the third, the Bears took the lead for good on a run-scoring fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly by Saree-Ann Kekahuna in the bottom of the third.

Kekahuna and Harmon have been battery mates since their youth softball days.

“Nothing can stop me and her from pitching and catching together,” Harmon said. “We’ve been together since we were 10 years old and it will be that way until we graduate, and college, everything.”

The defending MIL champion Lunas (3-5) have just two seniors on the roster, but Baldwin coach Sanoe Kekahuna knew her team could not take the foot off the gas.

“They have a really great program, a really great program, good coaching, great players, awesome players,” Kekahuna said. “You never want to give a team like that a chance. You just have got to fight.”

The Bears’ Jessica Ai hits a double in the third inning. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Baldwin put the game out of reach with three runs on five hits in the sixth, including an RBI double by Sammy Martinez.

Lahainaluna scored its third run in the sixth on an RBI single by Keani Pagan and advanced the first two runners in the seventh to second and third bases with no outs.

The Bears pulled off a double play to snuff out the threat when right fielder Shalei Awai caught a fly ball and threw out Daisha Dagdag at the plate. In the fifth, Vierra made a spectacular diving catch in left field to rob Dagdag of a hit.

“Absolutely,” Lahainaluna coach Lei Nakamura said when asked if Baldwin is a tough team.

Nakamura would not entertain the thought of blaming youth for the Lunas’ loss.

Ai slides around a tag by Lunas catcher Daisha Dagdag to score in the second inning. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“Two seniors,” she said. “Not an excuse. Absolutely not.”

Baldwin can clinch the regular-season title and the state berth that goes with it on Wednesday against second-place Kamehameha Maui. The Bears’ knack for timely hits has been keen lately, including a key home run by Avei Silifaiva in their recent win over King Kekaulike.

“We have a lot of things that we need to work on as a team,” Sanoe Kekahuna said. “We’re not quite exactly where we want to be, but we’re still working hard.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

Lahainaluna 101 001 0–3 6 0

Baldwin 022 030 x–7 8 3

Seraya Casco and Daisha Dagdag; Aliya Harmon and Saree-Ann Kekahuna. 2B–Lahainaluna: Mia Gerbig; Baldwin: Sammy Martinez, Jessica Ai, Kekahuna.

Leading hitters–Lahainaluna: Dagdag 2-4. Baldwin: Sasha Tanoue-Kekona 2-2, 2 runs.

MIL Standings

Division I

W L Pct. GB

Baldwin 9 0 1.000 —

Kamehameha Maui 6 3 .667 3

Lahainaluna 3 5 .375 51⁄2

King Kekaulike 2 6 .250 61⁄2

Maui High 2 8 .200 71⁄2

Division II

W L Pct. GB

x-Molokai 7 0 1.000 —

Lanai 1 3 .333 31⁄2

Hana 0 5 .000 51⁄2

x-clinched regular-season championship

Saturday’s Results

Molokai at Lanai, ppd.

Baldwin 7, Lahainaluna 3

Maui High 14, Kamehameha Maui 10 (game called in sixth inning due to rain)

Wednesday’s Games

Baldwin vs. Kamehameha Maui at Maui High, 4 p.m.

King Kekaulike at Lahainaluna, 6 p.m.

Friday’s Games

Hana at Lanai, 4 p.m.

Kamehameha Maui vs. Lahainaluna at Maui High, 6 p.m.

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