Castle Knights Off To Fast Start In OIA Baseball Play

For the Castle Knights baseball team, the next few weeks will be about getting in position to get into position – for a post-season run, that is.

Two weeks into their OIA slate, the Knights met every test, earning hard-fought wins over Kalani 2-0, Moanalua 4-3 and Roosevelt 2-1. The Castle team’s ability to win close games can only bode well in a league that looks as balanced as any in the state.

“It will be a challenge throughout,” admitted head coach Rocky Fraticelli of the remaining OIA East schedule. “The games have all been close, and we have a big stretch.”

The Knights were to host Kaiser last Saturday before turning their attention to Wednesday’s game with the rival Kailua Surfriders. The Kailua game, which is the first of two regular-season meetings between the teams this spring, is also at home.

Castle’s fast start can be attributed largely to “pitching and defense,” according to Fraticelli. “Right now, our ERA is 0.67 – that’s very good in 21 innings total – and it’s been nice to see us playing some defense.

“We have three errors in three games, and two of them came in the same game.”

Castle pitching coach Duane Fraticelli is one of two coaches (along with Kailua’s Corey Ishigo) currently in Hawaii who are certified by a National Pitching Association, according to Rocky Fraticelli.

“We have a pitching program we’re instilling in the kids, and we’ve been seeing some results,” he said. “It’s a young team as far as our pitching staff, and you need your players to buy into it.

“We currently have six who are pitchers exclusively, and then we also have position players who also pitch.”

Senior Christian Kapeliela already is working on an All-Conference-type year, having been the mound victor in two of Castle’s wins.

“Christian is quiet as a person,” said Fraticelli, who led Castle to a state tournament berth last year. “He takes care of his business, including in the classroom. He works hard.

“Pitching-wise, he’s able to keep balls inside and outside. He can have a tendency to be high with his pitches, but we’re working on him keeping it at knee level; 71 percent of his first pitches have been strikes, which is where we’d like it.”

Kapeliela is part of a stellar senior class that also features Billy Kerkau, Andre Fraticelli, Micah Camara, Tyler Zeilenga and Kyler Matin. In the Knights’ batting hierarchy, Kapeliela is currently at the No. 3 spot, with Camara (.500) No. 4 and Andre Fraticelli (.333) hitting fifth.

“All three of them are interchangeable in those spots,” the coach said. “They are all somewhat power hitters.”

In the area of extra-base hits, the Knights might be due for a break-out game, as all but three of their hits had been singles three games into the regular season.

“Our hits have been timely – that’s been a key.”

On the injury front, Fraticelli was expecting to regain the services of leadoff hitter Dane Kamalu for the Kaiser game. Kamalu, who suffered a concussion recently, is a transfer from Kailua but did not play last season because of injuries.

He plays catcher, third base and shortstop for the Knights.