WAIMEA —Kapa‘a High School baseball coach Bryan Aiwohi will aim to dethrone last season’s Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation conference champ Waimea High School from its championship perch.
The Warriors, who finished second last year in the KIF conference, will get their first opportunity to evaluate this season’s conference competition in the Walter Souza Invitational preseason baseball round-robin tournament March 5-7.
Last season, the Menehune qualified and finished second in Hawaii Athletic Association Division II state tournament, losing to Saint Francis School 10-4 in the state championship game.
Still, Aiwohi said he wouldn’t know where his team stands until the KIF regular season begins, but he would like to see positive results from his nucleus of returning seniors, from the team that placed second in the KIF in 2019.
“We just want to play good baseball, play good fundamentals, and learn from our mistakes in this tournament,” Aiwohi said. “We will play (Kaua‘i High School, Waimea High School) six times this season, and you get to know each other pretty well, and these games can get close, and we want our games to be competitive that is the bottom line.”
The Warriors will return Noah Cardinez (catcher-pitcher), Isaac Nagahisa (catcher-pitcher), Caden Shimabukuro (CF-pitcher), and Logan Krest (first basemen), among other senior leaders on the Warriors team.
Last year, then first-season Waimea head coach Chad Delanoza’s team finished first in the conference his first year at the Menehune helm.
Headed into this season, Delanoza has high expectations but admits every season, the team takes on a different personality.
“Every season (this tournament) gives us a starting point, and we see what we need to do from there,” Delanoza said. “It’s on the kids more than it is on me.”
The Menehune returns KIF Player of the Year Tysson Unciano (pitcher-right fielder), Kanaan Ephan (catcher), and leadoff batter Deiton Otoman, highlighting several other key returners from a nucleus of a second-place team that only lost one senior on its starting lineup.
Last season Kaua‘i High School finished last in the KIF conference in what was long-time Red Raiders’ coach Hank Ibia’s final season.
This year, Spencer Yates – older brother of current San Diego Padres’ pitcher Kirby Yates – will lead Kaua‘i into a new era, as the team’s new coach.
Yates said he would rely heavily on Kaua‘i High School’s pitching headed into his first year at the helm.
“We just need to put some good pitchers on the mound, and see how our team does against good teams,” Yates said. “This will be a good test for everyone.”
The pitching rotation will include Dahlus Hood, Nainoa Kane-Yates, and Jaden Domingsel as starting pitchers in the first three games of the tournament.
The following will be the games Thursday-Saturday:
Thursday, 3:30 p.m. — Kapa‘a vs. Kaiser, Kaua‘i vs. MIDPAC, Waimea vs. Kamehameha; Field: Game 1: Kapa‘a High School, Game 2: Vidinha Stadium; Game 3: Hanapepe Stadium.
Friday, 3:30 p.m. — Kamehameha vs. Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i vs. Kaiser, MIDPAC vs. Waimea. Field: Game 4: Kapa‘a High School; Game 5: Vininha; Game 6: Hanapepe Stadium.
Saturday, 8:30 a.m.—Kaua‘i vs. Kamehameha, Kapa‘a vs. MIDPAC, Waimea vs. Kaiser; Field: Game 7-9: Hanapepe Stadium.
Source: The Garden Island