Baseball Preseason Was Good For DII Kapolei Hurricanes

This is one in a series of high school baseball previews.

For the Kapolei boys baseball team, the road to a championship season first must pass through Kauai.

Indeed, longtime head coach Tom Ebanez had hoped to set the right tone for the Hurricanes with their first Neighbor Island trip in three years.

As Kapolei prepared to open its season over the weekend, Ebanez considered the mission accomplished.

“It was a great experience, not just for the kids, but for the coaches,” Ebanez said of the three-day trip last month to play in the Waimea Pre-Season Tournament. “It wasn’t all about baseball, but about life, too.

“It was great for all of us, and they also had some tough teams there.”

The Hurricanes also played in the Castle Pre-Season Tournament, where they saw their share of Division I teams.

“It was a great preseason,” Ebanez said. “We didn’t win a lot of games, but we played a lot of games and learned a lot about ourselves. We’re heading in the right direction.”

Kapolei will compete in Division II this season, leaning heavily on the leadership of seniors Ekolu Young, Robby Oliveros and Jace Barayuga, according to Ebanez.

All three were key contributors a year ago when the team competed in the OIA Red West.

“Ekolu is very productive,” Ebanez said of Young, a pitcher and first baseman, who currently hits third in the batting hierarchy. “I like to say he’s one of our pitching aces. When he’s on, he throws really hard.

“Robby is our ‘glue guy’ — his leadership skills on and off of the field have been an integral part of us,” he added of Oliveros, who pitches and plays first base and right field. “Jace is a lot like Robby. He’s in our pitching rotation and can play a lot of positions.

“Those three seniors are very good defensive players, and we always need to have them in the game and contributing in some way.”

Among the areas of emphasis in preseason was fine-tuning their mental approach, especially handling the ebb and flow of a game.

“We need to keep competing and playing throughout a game,” he said. “I’m excited to see if we will be consistent for seven innings, because that’s what we’ve been striving for.”

Kapolei was to open its OIA White schedule over last weekend with a game at Kahuku.

It will return to action this week with a visit to Nanakuli today (March 18) and will face Aiea Friday as its home opener. Both games begin at 3 p.m.

The home slate also includes games against Kalaheo March 28, Waialua April 11 and Nanakuli April 15.

On the road, it’s at Farrington March 25, McKinley April 1, Waialua April 4 and Aiea April 8.