Chargers Open Preseason Against Punahou Saturday

With last May’s riveting state championship run fresh in their memory, the Pearl City baseball team opened the preseason with plenty of spring in its step.

“They’re excited and anxious to start the season, and that makes us excited as coaches,” second-year head coach Mitchell Yamato said. “They’re a good bunch of kids, and they know what our goals are. Most of them had a taste of what it feels like to win a state championship, and they’re excited to start and hopefully finish the way we did last year.”

Pearl City officially began practices Jan. 29 and had three scrimmages by the end of last week.

An early test may come Saturday when the Chargers host Interscholastic League of Honolulu power Punahou in a preseason game at 10 a.m. The Buffanblu won state titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010 before missing the tourney last year. For their part, the Chargers are more preoccupied with solidifying their own lineup, rather than scouting reports on the opposition.

“We’re sort of young this year, so it is going to be interesting for us,” said Yamato, whose team went 14-5 in 2011.

Although the Chargers graduated a talented senior class last June, a handful of seasoned returnees are back in the fold, including Troy Barbosa-Scanlan, Sumi Pruett, and Tyler and Tanner Tokunaga.

Barbosa-Scanlan will likely play “on one of the corners at first or third,” according to Yamato. Pruett will pitch and play first base.

“Hopefully, we can get Troy’s arm going, and he can pitch,” Yamato said. “He’s also the biggest guy on the team, so we hope he can generate some power in the middle of the lineup. Sumi is a workhorse. He’s going to be one of our main studs.”

Tanner Tokunaga contributed one of the biggest hits in Pearl City history last spring, when his double in the seventh inning helped fuel the decisive inning for the Chargers in their comefrom-behind state championship victory over Moanalua. He is set to play several positions this time around.

“He still has a couple years left with us,” Yamato said. “He’ll pitch, play outfield and some infield. He’s capable of doing all the jobs.”

Tyler Tokunaga will anchor the infield at shortstop, while also logging time on the mound again.

“Pitching-wise, he’ll be our closer,” Yamato said, “but he’ll be at short(stop) the majority of the time. His versatility is his strength. He has speed, and he can hit from both sides of the plate. He also has great arm strength and could play in the outfield if we needed him to.”

Pitching and defense have been Pearl City’s forte in recent years, helping them to win OIA titles in four of the past five years in addition to last May’s state title. Yamato sees the same promise in his current team.

“We’ll have to play good defense this year, and we look pretty sound,” he said. “Offensively, we look pretty decent. Hopefully, the bats will come around and we’ll be able to hang in there with teams.”

On the West side, Yamato sees balance once again.

“It is always a tough side,” he said. “Everyone has a rivalry with everyone. Every game is a tough game.”