Sanae Nakoa and Amanda Venegas-Makaiwi have more in common than the pitching position on the softball field.
Nakoa, of Baldwin High School, and Venegas-Makaiwi, of Molokai, led their teams to Maui Interscholastic League titles in 2013 and are The Maui News' MIL Players of the Year for Divisions I and II, respectively.
"I was surprised and shocked," Nakoa said of her selection by MIL coaches. "Anybody could have been Player of the Year."
Sanae Nakoa of Baldwin High School joined by multiple teammates on the Maui Interscholastic League first teams — the Bears had six honorees.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO
Amanda Venegas-Makaiwi of Molokai joined by multiple teammates on the Maui Interscholastic League first teams — the Farmers had five.
Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Venegas-Makaiwi said of her award, "I think it is pretty cool that I am, especially since it is my last year playing softball in high school."
Both pitchers have unfinished business after 0-2 showings at the state tournament. For Nakoa, a sophomore, that means coming back to lead a young Bears team. Venegas-Makaiwi, meanwhile, will next be proving herself in the college ranks.
Baldwin's other MIL D-I first-teamers are Lillyan Bermudez (first base), Skylynne Ellazar (second base), Kawena Cabrera (third base), Kylie Rose Dickson (shortstop) and Alysha Sakamura (outfield) - only Dickson and Sakamura are seniors.
The D-I first team is rounded out by Lahai-naluna's Hope Morikawa (pitcher), Jessica Wallace (catcher), Tobi Bonifacio (outfield) and Haley Nakamura (utility), and Maui High's Nia Bailey (outfield).
Morikawa, Ellazar and Sakamura were unanimous first-team selections.
Nakoa outdueled Morikawa in what turned out to be a best-of-five series for the MIL pennant. When Baldwin won the final game, it returned the Bears to their perch atop the league and broke the Lunas' two-year reign.
"It felt good because Lahainaluna is a top team," Nakoa said. "When we won the champion thing, I was all happy because we finally got past them. We are both good teams and when we play against each other it just makes us both better.
"When I face them I know I have to be on because Lahainaluna is a really good team and Hope is a really good pitcher, so I had to work hard. I like the challenge."
The MIL D-II first team includes Venegas-Makaiwi's teammates Khaylie Adachi (second base), Tai Yamamoto (third base), Kiona English (shortstop) and Karlie Martin-Galam (outfield), Hana's Pakalana Helekahi (first base), Jaynalee Hoopai (pitcher) and Shalen-Brae Hoopai (utility) and Lanai's Megan Amby (catcher), Nalani Plunkett (outfield) and Katie Sarme (outfield).
"I know that I had to put myself out there for the younger girls because I was the only four-year player on our team," Venegas-Makaiwi said. "I just told myself to become one of our leaders."
Baldwin coach Steve Morton is the D-I Coach of the Year.
"The Lahaina girls play well together - I was surprised that we beat them this year because we were young," Morton said. "Sanae on the mound, once she found that groove she was just unstoppable."
The Farmers also found their stride after opening 3-3 in the MIL, and Molokai coach Coco Augustiro is the choice of her peers as MIL D-II Coach of the Year.
"Amanda was a real value to our team this year and we will miss her next year because of her four years of experience," Augustiro said. "She knew how states was, how the MIL tournament was. She played three years in the state tournament and we will miss that."
Venegas-Makaiwi will continue her career at a junior college in Nevada or a small school in Hawaii.
"I am looking forward to that, but I will miss wearing the Farmers' jersey," she said.
Nakoa looks at Baldwin's softball history - the Bears own state titles from 2001 and 2007 - and dreams of the future.
"We know what Baldwin softball is all about," Nakoa said. "We want to be (state) champs again."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org