Waipahu Faces New Opportunities In Division I Baseball
With its promotion to Division I this spring, the Waipahu baseball team will see a new lineup of opponents. Even so, the emphasis remains firmly internal as it begins OIA Red conference play, rather than scouting reports on the opposition, according to long-time head coach Milton Takenaka.
“We’re concentrating more on our game and trying to raise that up,” said Takenaka, whose team opens its season Saturday at home against Kapolei. “We have a lot of returnees, and the kids are excited to be moving up to DI. Last year, we were relatively young. Having the kids compete at that level and win a state championship was a big boost for them confidence-wise, I think.”
The Marauders had competed in Division II since 2008, the year the OIA split into two divisions. Waipahu is coming off its first-ever state title last year when it went a perfect 15-0 en route to winning the DII crown. The team also captured its second OIA White title in four years. In fact, Waipahu’s riveting season was enough for Takenaka, who has been Waipahu’s coach since 1985, to delay retirement from coaching by one season.
Although Waipahu lost a trio of mainstays to graduation last spring, it’s in regroup mode rather than rebuilding mode. Takenaka is building his current team largely around junior pitcher Dylan Sugimoto.
Sugimoto figured big for Waipahu during the post-season last spring, tallying 20 strikeouts in wins over Kalaheo and Konawaena in back-to-back starts. “Dylan is probably our No. 1 pitcher right now,” Takenaka said. “He’s had a really good preseason, and he’s ready to go. He got a little stronger (in the off-season), and now his fast ball has a little more zip on it. His curve and change-up are pretty good.”
As in recent years, pitching should be Waipahu’s strength again. “We have Dylan, and Joshua Maglangit has been throwing, and we have some other young pitchers.
“Defensively, we have to pick it up, and our hitting will come around as the season goes on. We’re still working out some kinks, but we’re doing OK.”
Waipahu was 4-1 in preseason games, heading into last weekend, having played in both the Kauai High School tournament and the Richard Kitamura tournament.