by Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER, Colo. -- To be specific, great softball comes out of the Pacific.
Anchored by a hard-nosed group of student-athletes hailing from Hawaii, both Polynesia teams at the second International Challenge took first place in their age groups Sunday, with the 18u squad confidently running past Team USA in an 11-2 victory at the Christopher Fields Complex.
After falling behind 1-0, Polynesia started stringing together quality at-bats, putting endless pressure on the opposing defense, and showing special hustle to the end. Asia Lee (a Pacific University commit), for example, scored from second on a wild pitch in the third inning, and Carys Murakami (Northridge) came all the way home from second on an infield error in the same inning.
Taryn Irimata (Iowa State) started in the circle and was very effective; her defense turned two double plays behind her, and the last four batters in the Polynesia batting order combined for seven runs.
“Taryn is a great pitcher, and she’s been working in Hawaii for us for a long time,” said Polynesia coach Josh Danz. “We put all faith in her to go seven innings if necessary.”
Rylei Trujillo (UNLV) hit a home run in the second inning to put Team USA up 1-0, where Polynesia centerfielder Trendee Kahunahana actually had the catch as she tumbled over the fence — the ball bounced free at the last second.
Irimata was not worried about the early deficit.
“I knew my team had my back; we can hit and I believe in the girls. I knew that wasn’t the game, there was a lot of time left,” Irimata said. “We came out and wanted to play for the people back home, and we showed out. I thought we could win it from the beginning. I played with and against a lot of these girls, and I knew we could do it … all I can ask for is solid defense and good hitting, and that’s what happened.”
That offense broke the game open with three runs in the fourth and five more in the fifth. Shonty Passi (Utah) had a single, double and home run; Kahunahana had a two-run single in the fifth.
“The home run, I was just trying to square it up and put it somewhere and not do too much with it. But when it flies, it flies,” Passi said. “Coming from Hawaii we’re just hungry. We won’t give up and keeping fighting to the end, down 10 runs or whatever. It’s body, blood, sweat, whatever we need to do to win. We are competitive.”
Team USA had a difficult time working through mistakes; the game ended with a runner being picked off second base. Allison Robinsn added a home run in the fifth inning.
“We only lost two girls from our team last year; we got this group together along with new 16s and wanted to win both divisions,” Danz added. “We’ve got a great mix of speed and power, and through the tournament we hit home runs left and right — you do that for the pitcher, and she stepped up as well. We wanted to play everyone and show that this is a team win.”