Aiea Softball Prepares For DII State Championships

Twelve teams will take part in this week’s Division II State Softball Championships, and 11 of them will have the same mindset: Catch Nanakuli.

You can count Aiea among those teams.

It was Nanakuli who handed Aiea its only two losses in the regular season, and the teams were seeded first and second, respectively, in last week’s OIA Division II tournament.

Aiea finished fourth at last year’s state tournament, and Na Ali‘i has high hopes once again.

West Oahu Voice takes a look at Aiea’s prospects for this week’s DII state championships.

First-round games, as well as the quarterfinal round, were to be played Tuesday and Wednesday at McKinley High School.

The action moves to Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium for Thursday’s semifinals and Friday’s championship round.

The Aiea File

Record: 9-2 in the OIA’s Division II regular season

Wins: over Kahuku (19-0 in five innings); over Kalaheo (14-2 in five innings); over Anuenue (by forfeit); over Radford (14-1 in five innings); over Radford (by forfeit); over Kalani (28-0 in five innings); over Waialua (18-3 in five innings); over Waialua (13-1 in five innings); over Farrington (12-6).

Losses: to Nanakuli (10-0); to Nanakuli (by forfeit).

Key Wins: over Kalaheo (14-2 in five innings); over Waialua (18-3 in five innings); over Waialua (13-1 in five innings); over Farrington (12-6).

Aiea at the State Tournament: Aiea is making its third straight appearance at the DII state tournament. Na Ali‘i are 5-3 overall over the past two appearances, finishing fourth in 2013 and a program-best third in 2014. Aiea also made the DII state tournament in 2009 and 2010.

What to Watch: Aiea head coach Alan Higuchi’s Na Ali‘i entered last week’s DII tournament playing as well as any team in the state, and was sporting a six-game winning streak dating back to March 24.

In earning the No. 2 seeding for the OIA DII tourney, Aiea already had clinched one of the league’s four berths for this week’s state softball championships. (Aiea had finished second in the OIA White last season and went on to take fourth in the DII state tournament.)

Senior leadership has played a huge role in Na Ali‘i’s success so far in 2015, thanks to upperclassmen Kayla Higuchi, Riley Tagawa, Kailie Alama and Raisa Strom-Okimoto. (Strom-Okimoto has been out of the lineup all season with an injury.)

Defense and pitching have been Aiea’s forte this spring.

Na Ali‘i gave up one run or less in all but three games during the regular season.

The arrival of first-year pitching coach Megan Rigos also has paid huge dividends, according to Higuchi.

Rigos played at DI Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and has been tutoring the Aiea pitching tandem of Poamai Tuli and Vesi Liilii.

Aiea’s offensive output has been impressive as well, as Na Ali‘i toppled the 10-run plateau in all seven of their onfield wins. (Two of Na Ali‘i’s wins were by forfeit.)