The senior slugger and ace pitcher couldn’t help the Cowgirls secure that elusive BIIF title, but she did the next best thing.
Kekoa led Kohala to its first state championship finale appearance and a runner-up finish that made the Cowgirls feel like champions in their own rights.
She was named the BIIF Division II player of the year, in a vote by the league’s coaches, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today.
“I’m thankful for everything and everyone there to support me all these years,” Kekoa said. “I never thought I’d end up player of the year.
“I had an amazing team to back me up, and we worked hard to get to states. We had a phenomenal season. We had our ups and downs, but we pulled together to make it to states.”
In four games on the Valley Isle, Kekoa tore apart the pitching, batting 6 for 13 (.462) with three homers and eight RBIs and stifled lineups with a 3-1 record an 2.85 ERA in 27 innings. She allowed 14 hit and 16 walks and whiffed 40.
Kekoa is joined on the first team by junior teammate Laila Carvalho, Kamehameha’s Leiloa Bustamante, Dioni Lincoln, Kawehi Ili, Kuulei Ili, Kaula Martin, Kawai Kauahi-Raquel and Brooke Baptiste, and Honokaa’s Natasha Molina and Ceelyn Gali-Lucero.
Kamehameha’s Akea Kiyuna was named the BIIF coach of the year after guiding the Warrior to their eighth straight league crown.
On Sunday, Kekoa spent time on Oahu while being inducted into the Hawaii High School Hall of Honor, which recognized her achievements in other sports. She was the BIIF POY in Division II volleyball in 2018 after leading the Cowgirls to their first BIIF title and helped Kohala reached the state semifinals in girls basketball in 2016.
Kohala coach Terrence Alcoran liked how Kekoa took charge of a young squad and commanded the spotlight at states.
“The best thing about her was her attitude, which was really good,” he said. “She was a leader on the team and helped the girls out. She knew this was her senior year. At states, she hit the ball hard. She was unreal. Her pitching was pretty good. They had a hard time hitting her. She was really good.”
For Kekoa, softball has always been her sport of choice, particularly pitching. She enjoys being in the pitcher’s circle, drawing on all the words of advice from her father, Nate Kekoa.
“My dad has always been by my side pushing me,” she said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am without my dad pushing me all the time. It’s been good because I push myself even more.”
During the offseason, Kekoa played on Oahu and traveled to tournaments during the summer. She signed to play at Hope International, an NAIA school in Fullerton, Calif, where she plans to major in kinesiology. The Royals finished 46-14 and lost in the regional championship.
In the state championship, Saint Francis defeated Kohala 4-1. Kekoa pitched a four-hitter, but Sierrah Kupihea pitched better with a three-hitter and whiffed 14.
It was an emotional day because the Saints went out a winner in the school’s final year of existence while the Cowgirls become the underdog favorite as a small school with long odds.
“Knowing we were a young team and Saint Francis won it last year, we knew it was going to be a good outcome,” Kekoa said. “Both sides were happy. We cried tears of joy. It was Saint Francis’ last year for their school, and we made it that far being from a small country town.”
Leiloa Bustamante Kamehameha INF 11
Dioni Lincoln Kamehameha INF 10
Kawehi Ili Kamehameha INF 10
Kuulei Ili Kamehameha INF 12
Natasha Molina Honokaa INF 12
Laila Caravalho Kohala INF 11
Kawai Kauahi-Raquel Kamehameha INF 11
Kaula Martin Kamehameha OF 10
Ceelyn Gali-Lucero Honokaa OF 11
Brooke Baptiste Kamehameha P 12
Mikayla Kekoa Kohala P 12
Player of the Year
Mikayla Kekoa, Kohala
Coach of the Year
Akea Kiyuna, Kamehameha
Kamehameha: Jolie Kim
Kohala: Danyka Cazimero-Roxburgh
Honokaa: Tehani Epenesa, Shaela Jardine, Kierra Molina
Ka’u: Kaiao Emmsley