Chargers Facing Baseball Preseason Test

The Pearl City baseball team won’t have to wait long for its first true pre-season test. With home dates Thursday and Saturday against Punahou and Maryknoll, respectively, the Chargers and third-year head coach Mitch Yamato will have an early opportunity to face first-rate competition.

Those outcomes aside, the games should figure big for Yamato, whose staff is in the evaluation stage with a talented young lineup. “We’re a young team, but it’s a great bunch of kids and they’re all talented,” said Yamato, whose team went 11-8 last season, a year after winning the 2011 Division I state championship. “We’ve been blessed with the talent that has been coming to us (the last several years). The coaches have had a hard time knowing where to put everyone. We’re not short on talent this year; we’re short on game-experience at this level. (Coming up to) the speed of the game at this level is crucial.”

Pearl City’s 2011-12 campaign was defined by close encounters, as 10 of the Chargers’ 19 games were decided by one run or less. While Yamato will have mostly underclassmen in the fold, seniors Sean Milan, Kamalu Neal and Tanner Tokunaga are about as seasoned as high school players can be, given that the Chargers made deep runs into the post-season in their freshman and sophomore seasons, including winning the state title in 2011.

“Those three really help us out since they’ve been here and know what’s expected. At some point, all three will pitch for us. Sean also will play in the outfield. Kamalu will see time as a pitcher, he’ll see time catching, and he’ll sometimes be somewhere in the infield. Tanner will see time in the outfield and the infield.”

Tokunaga and Milan were both First Team All-Conference selections in a vote of OIA Red West coaches last May.

As in past years, the Chargers’ roster is comprised of players who competed throughout their elementary and intermediate years in the community’s talent-laden Little League program.

“Our team chemistry is there,” Yamato said. “We’ve always had that here, but with a fairly young team we don’t have an age gap (on the roster). This is probably the best team chemistry overall that we’ve had. These guys have played together for a long time.

“We have some pitching, and we have some defense. Hitting-wise, we don’t have the luxury of that (consistent) home run hitter, but they all seem to handle the bat well.”

Punahou is coming off of a 15-4 season in which it was the consolation champion at last May’s Division I state tournament. Mary-knoll took third at last year’s Division II state tournament, finishing 9-9 overall.