Little League Softball: Sniffen silences Gold Coast again, powers Honolulu to state title

  • MATT GERHART/Tribune-Herald Gold Coast's Malie Espejo hits a ground ball to shortstop Friday off pitcher Jenna Sniffen during Honolulu's 4-0 victory at the state Little League majors tournament in Hilo.

Hard-throwing Honolulu right-hander Jenna Sniffen continued to be the talk of the state Little League Majors softball tournament.

A day after being no-hit, Gold Coast did well Saturday to battle Sniffen, but the 13-year-old did damage of her own at the plate with two triples, guiding Honolulu to a 13-2, 5-inning TKO victory at UH-Hilo for its first state title and a spot in regionals.

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Sniffen struck out four and was touched for two hits, including Kalia Marquez’s RBI double in the third inning as Gold Coast scored two unearned runs. For the tournament, the overpowering Sniffen fanned 15 batters in 11 innings, only walked two and didn’t allow an earned run.

Afterward, someone near the officials’ tent opined that Sniffen was ready to pitch for the Vulcans — now.

Sniffen is still one school year away from thinking about high school competition at Maryknoll School, and first she and her teammates can try their hand at the Little League West regional, July 20-27 in San Bernardino, Calif.

Honolulu coach Daniel Ho figured his team would swing easier after he said they battled nerves in amassing three hits in Friday’s 4-0 win, while Gold Coast coach Nino Kaai thought his youngsters would feel more comfortable at the plate.

It didn’t take long for both to be proven right in Game 2.

Sniffen belted an RBI triple in the first inning and scored on a wild pitch as Honolulu scored three runs, and Lexi Hinahara’s three-run triple in the second highlighted a five-run second inning. Hinahara drove in four runs with three hits, Nikki Chong and Taryn Ho collected two hits apiece, and Sniffen ripped a two-run triple to deep right as Honolulu tacked on five more runs in the fifth inning.

Malie Espejo started and pitched two innings in taking the loss for Gold Coast, which — following coaches’ order to choke up, stand farther back in the batter’s box and get the barrel of the bat on the ball — was more adept at making contact with Sniffen’s heater and laying off her changeup.

Freeda Tosie helped set a tone in the first inning with a good at-bat, fighting off several of Sniffen’s offerings and working the count before finally striking out.

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Espejo’s bunt single in the second was Gold Coast’s first hit of the tournament, but Sniffen stranded the bases loaded with a strikeout. A pair of errors plated a run in the third ahead of Marquez’s double to left.

West Hawaii’s Gold Coast will send a 16-under team to Missoula, Montana, where the Senior Leaguers will try to defend their West Regional title from July 18-23.

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