Kailua Softball Standout Reflects On ‘The Game’ of 2003
When Courtney Kessell looks back on the Kailua softball team’s magical run of 2003, one thing is clear: The emphasis always was on the Surfriders rather than their opponents. That was even true in the OIA championship game that season when they faced a Mililani team that had won 63 straight games versus league opponents, including a string of four straight overall OIA titles.
“We were on a streak of our own that year, so we were never really thinking of their streak,” recalled Kessell, who went on to star at Hawaii Pacific University following her prep career at Kailua. “Our chemistry on the field that year was right on. We all felt comfortable with each other, and we concentrated on playing Kailua softball. I always personally felt that if I just did my job, we’d be OK.”
The after-glow of that season remains vivid to those involved, especially with the recent 10th anniversary of Kailua’s playoff run. Kailua would go on to finish with a perfect 16-0 that year, defeating Kamehameha, 2-1, in the state title game.
“I don’t think we expected to win it that year,” said Bernard Victor, who coached Kailua to six OIA titles and four state championships during his long tenure at the school. “We peaked at the right time.”
Kessell was the catalyst on the mound throughout that season, and she was never better than in the big games. In the aforementioned OIA finale, which Kailua won 2-0, Kessell gave up four hits with five strikeouts and no walks to earn the win. She also provided the game-winning hit with a base hit to center field. (An insurance run was provided for Kailua moments later when Rusty-Ann Borges, pinch-running for Kessell, scored on a hit by Loke Lastimosa.)
Mililani had countered with its own ace on the mound in OIA Red West Player of the Year Miki Asamura, who pitched a six-hitter, with five strike-outs and three walks that afternoon. (Asamura had walked only one batter in 45 innings during the regular season.)
It was made possible in part by Kailua pinch-hitter Erin Guerrero, whose epic at-bat in the top half of the seventh inning against Asamura provided the spark the Surfriders needed. Although she had once trailed in the count 2-1, Guerrero was to foul off 11 pitches and faced 18 offerings from Asamura in all before finally drawing a walk. Her grit paid dividends, as she crossed home plate moments later with the winning run on Kessell’s base hit.
“I remember being really nervous and telling myself I had to do something because it was 0-0,” Guerrero recalled. “I hadn’t expected to go in as a hitter. I was coming out of nowhere.”
Added Victor at the time: “I don’t know how many (pitches) it was, but I know she was up there for a long time.”
Other key contributors on that Kailua team were Danielle Young, Chante Mundon, Tanisha Milca, Kainoa Hughes, Kamaile Hughes and Alisha Vegas, Pikake Choy Foo, Shyenne Hussey and Jaushlyn Mansinon. While the Surfriders were to remain in the mix for championships in ensuing years, they didn’t win another OIA or state title during Kessell’s final two seasons at Kailua, making the 2003 run perhaps even more special in retrospect. She went on to star at HPU and is today a military sales rep for Paradise Beverages.
“Looking back on it, it was a great accomplishment and I’m glad I got to experience it,” she said. “It was a very memorable moment in Kailua’s history. I think it is great that other people remember it.”