ILH adds intrigue to state baseball
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
For many years, people wondered what would happen in the baseball state tournament with more teams from the ultra-competitive Interscholastic League of Honolulu in the field.
Starting today, everyone will find out.
The ILH charges into the tournament with three entries for the first time in recent memory — four-time defending state champion Punahou (13-5-1), league runner-up Saint Louis (17-4) and third-place Mid-Pacific (15-4).
The ILH had only one berth last year, but gained two extra berths this year with the Kaua'i Interscholastic Federation champion now playing in the inaugural Division II state tournament and the Big Island Interscholastic Federation dropping its allotment from three berths to two, also with the advent of DII baseball.
The 12-team Division I tourney begins today with four games at Les Murakami Stadium. The 12-team DII tournament also begins play today, with four games at Patsy Mink Central O'ahu Regional Park.
In the Division I feature matchup at 7 tonight, perennial power Mid-Pacific (13-4) takes on 'Aiea (9-6) and likely its major league draft prospect, ace right-hander Randy Castillo. The earlier games pit Kailua (12-3) vs. Kamehameha-Hawai'i (9-3-1) at 11:30 a.m., Castle (10-5) vs. Roosevelt (9-7) at 2 p.m. and Baldwin (12-4) vs. Saint Louis (17-4) at 4:30.
No. 1 seed Punahou, No. 2 Pearl City (13-2), No. 3 Waiakea (12-1) and No. 4 Maui (13-3) each have first-round byes and begin play with quarterfinal action tomorrow at Murakami Stadium.
Here is a closer look at all 12 Division I teams (records are for regular and postseason only):
Coach: Ryan Kato.
Berth: OIA fourth place.
Notable: Na Ali'i have one of the most potentially dominant pitchers in the tournament in 6-foot-2 senior right-hander Randy Castillo, who recorded 15 strikeouts in an OIA quarterfinal victory over Kaiser. Outfielder/pitcher Keenan Naeole also was impressive in the league tourney, shutting out Kailua in 3 1/3 innings of relief in the semifinals. Naeole also is one of 'Aiea's top hitters. Kanekoa Asing had some big hits in the OIA tournament.
Coach: Jon Viela.
Berth: MIL runner-up.
Notable: The Bears are young, with only five seniors on a 22-man roster. One senior leader is pitcher/outfielder Skyler Cabacungan, who is batting .417 and has a 1.36 earned run average, with 35 strikeouts and eight walks. Three sophomores — pitcher Brock Shishido, infielder Jordan Negrini and outfielder Neil Morioka — have emerged as key players. Shishido has a 0.67 ERA with 33 strikeouts and nine walks; Negrini is batting .463 and Morioka is hitting .444.
Coaches: Brent Taniguchi, Chad Uyehara.
Berth: OIA third place.
Notable: Senior Pulama Silva, a 5-10 right-hander, is one of the top pitchers in the tournament and appears to have fully recovered from a recent hand injury. He pitched a five-hitter to beat Wai'anae, 2-1, in the OIA quarterfinals, then earned the save in the third-place game with two innings of scoreless relief. Senior shortstop Kainoa Tom batted over .600 in the regular season and can be a menace on the base paths. Seniors Bryan Raines and Josh Serrano are two other solid starting pitchers.
Coach: Corey Ishigo.
Berth: OIA runner-up.
Notable: The Surfriders are a good-hitting, dangerous offensive team that can score runs in bunches. Senior designated hitter Scott Talaesea is one of the state's most feared sluggers who can change a game with one swing of the bat. He has good protection at the No. 2 spot, with junior third baseman Kale Sumner also bringing power to the plate. Junior center fielder and leadoff batter Ryan Kinoshita does a good job of setting the table, and seniors Keenan Tanaka (catcher), Rob DeMarsh (right field) and Jordan Limahai (first base) are big hitters in the middle of the lineup. Freshman right-hander Ryan McMonigle tossed a three-hitter in the OIA semifinals, and 6-foot-2, 215-pound freshman Alika Ramsmeyer-Ho can overpower batters with his fastball.
Coach: Andy Correa.
Berth: BIIF runner-up.
Notable: The Warriors advanced to the state semifinals last year but have only six seniors on this season's 24-man roster. One of them is catcher Kolten Wong, a 2007 Advertiser All-State first-team selection who has signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Hawai'i next season. Wong is batting .680 with six home runs. Senior right-hander Blake Amaral is the staff's ace
Coach: Lee Yonamine.
Berth: MIL champion.
Notable: The Sabers, with only four seniors on an 18-man roster, won their first league title since 1998. Senior Mitch Crim has a 0.33 ERA, beat Baldwin twice and is batting .449. Another senior, shortstop Jordan Agcaoili, is batting .429. Junior catcher Jordan Inamasu is batting .447 and junior pitcher Peter Ibanez has a 1.01 ERA.
Coach: Dunn Muramaru.
Berth: ILH third place.
Notable: The Owls are a veteran team, with several two- or three-year starters in the lineup. Catcher Aaron Fujiki is a fourth-year letterman and three-year starter, a leader on offense and defense. He can shut down a running game and provide clutch hits with runners on base. Matthew McDaniel (6-3, Jr.), Dane Kinoshita (5-11, Sr.) and Rob Dittrick (5-10, Jr.) lead a solid pitching staff. Senior infielder Russell Doi leads off an efficient, productive offense.
Coach: Gary Nakamoto.
Berth: OIA champion.
Notable: The Chargers appear to have all the pieces in place to make a run at returning to the title game. They have three solid starting pitchers in senior left-handers Bryson Nakamura and Cory Yuh and sophomore right-hander Kahana Neal. They have speed at the top of the order in center fielder Duane Kiyota, power hitters in Nakamura, Bryson Namba and Carlton Tanabe, and a fundamentally sound defense including shortstop Ryno Acosta.
Coach: Eric Kadooka.
Berth: ILH champion.
Notable: Senior pitcher/second baseman Reece Kiriu has emerged as the leader in recent weeks, coming through with tough victories on the mound and clutch hitting at the plate. Reigning Advertiser State Player of the Year Jeeter Ishida has not pitched in over a month due to a shoulder injury, but he still is a dangerous batter. Seniors Matt Suiter (center field), Josh Bninski (shortstop), Zach Kometani (catcher) and Paul Snieder (first base) are All-State players.
Coach: Craig Arakawa.
Berth: OIA fifth place.
Notable: The Rough Riders do not have much size — their tallest player if 5 feet 10 and 17 of the 20 players are listed at 5-8 or shorter — but they are fundamentally sound and crafty. Senior Tyler Nitahara pitches, catches and bats cleanup. Senior left-hander Kelson Okimoto is only 5-4 but notched some big victories, including one over Kaiser with a state tournament berth on the line. Junior outfielder Zach Hamasaki starts the offense at leadoff and TJ Bae is a dangerous No. 3 hitter. Junior Lowen Kaho'oilihala hit well in the OIA tournament.
Coach: Duane Fraticelli.
Berth: ILH runner-up.
Notable: The Crusaders are making their first state tournament appearance in this decade, but they have many two or three-year senior starters who play with confidence. The catalyst is senior center fielder Tamatoa DeMello, who bats leadoff and also is the closer. He is a vocal leader who gets on base and causes havoc with his speed and aggressiveness. Senior left-hander Josh Saio is a clutch starting pitcher. Sophomore catcher Moses Samia provides power in the middle of the lineup.
Coach: Gordon Mau.
Berth: BIIF champion.
Notable: The Warriors' only loss came to Hilo during the regular season. Senior pitcher Bryan Alben is a hard-throwing, 6-foot-2 left-hander. Senior Eric Hernandez is a returning starter who can contribute as a pitcher, catcher, outfielder and hitter. Seniors TJ Yasuhara (shortstop) and Keenan Komeiji (first base) anchor the infield.
Reach Wes Nakama at email@example.com.