HANAPEPE — The Rookies senior softball team made history Thursday as a vivid partial rainbow blossomed over the Pat Baniaga field following the Rookies’ 23-15 win over Aikane, the tournament’s three-consecutive champion (there was no state tournament in 2020 due to the COVID-19).
“Has there ever been a team from Kaua‘i that won the state title?” asked Lori Uyeda, wife of Aaron Uyeda of the Rookies. “This is historic!”
The rainbow not only celebrated the Rookies’ state championship, but it also marked the end of the 45th Hawai‘i State Senior Softball Tournament that was hosted by the Kaua‘i Senior Softball League with a lot of help from the County of Kaua‘i and a number of community sponsors. The tournament was also dedicated to Pat Baniaga, a longtime sports and athletic events supporter who passed away in 2019.
Irving “Sarge” Soto, coach of the Kaua‘i team Barteks, echoed the sentiments of countless numbers of chat-group lines in thanking Laureen Naumu-Balocan for her amazing efforts as the tournament director of the competition that featured 39 teams from Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i Island playing in five divisions at Hanapepe Stadium, ‘Ele‘ele Park and Kaumakanai Field.
“You did an amazing job running this year’s tournament,” Soto said. “And, thanks to all the teams, the players, the volunteers, and officials that made it possible — especially during these trying times.”
Tournament play ended Thursday evening with Kona Gold, a team from Hawai‘i island, taking the B Division title over the Honomu Rockets, another Big Island team, after relegating the Aloha Kia Lihu‘e A’s to third place in the division.
The Punatics, another Big Island squad, topped the C Division over the Maui Raiders after putting Solid Steel, a Kaua‘i team, in third place of the division.
Kolohe, yet another Big Island team, edged out Zen, an O‘ahu team, for top honors in the D Division, and the Waipio Makules, an O‘ahu team, got past Xpress, another O‘ahu team, for the E Division championship.
“It was my utmost pleasure,” Naumu-Balocan responded to the many scoops of praises flowing on the group-chat lines. “It brought much joy, excitement and tears of happiness to watch many of the players who over the years in my lifetime of playing ball continue the love and passion of the game. Following the loss of my dear husband Anthony Balocan and my dad Harold Naumu, who also loved, loved the game, it made me realize even more — life is too short. Knowing I can make a difference in volunteering my time when it is possible, bringing happiness in anyone’s present life on earth is heartwarming.”
Naumu-Balocan wants to be sure the scorekeepers for each division — Kaulana Efhan in D Division, Erica Iwai in B Division, Lee El Mori in A Division, Dee Morikawa in E Division, Frank and Lynn Bukoski in the C Division, and Tony Lazaro — “all of the above, and announcer” and Lehua Malani, coordinator assistant and relief — were told they were “Amazing!”
“Roann Okamura, you are a rock star,” Naumu-Balocan said. “We could not have done it without you — Big Island, you all are so lucky!”
Volunteer crews and umpires included Dondi Viquelia, Bambi Santos, Lee El Mori, Rose Abalos and others.
“From the Department of Parks and Recreation, the crew kicked butt,” Naumu-Balocan said. “They were amazing with prepping for each game on five different fields. Dominic Agoo, Norman Holt Jr., Teddy Perreira (he also is the catcher for the Rookies), Larry Kapuniai, Michael Lagazo, Simplicia Tugade, Charlie Kalioa, Jason Silva, Franklin Dureg, Jerry Sullivan and Denelle Reis — this 45th Hawai‘i state tournament was long overdue, and we could not have done it without your help.”
Source: The Garden Island