Chargers Prepare For OIA Opener Against Aiea March 3

As reputations go, the Oahu Interscholastic Association’s Red West Conference always comes as advertised when it comes to prep softball.

Whether or not his Pearl City team can “stay in the mix” in the West this spring remains to be seen, but Chargers’ longtime Coach Keoke Behic knows his team will certainly have the opportunities to be an elite team. The league’s long-term track record all but guarantees as much.

“The West is probably the best league in the state,” said Behic. The West league has produced the state softball champion five times in the last eight years. “The games are going to be ultracompetitive, but I think we’ll be competitive, too. The OIA’s six berths for the state tournament could all come out of the West. We hope to be one of them.”

“It will all boil down to one thing: pitching,” he added. “Kapolei and Campbell have top (-level) pitchers, and the rest of us will be battling.”

The Chargers prepared for the rugged West with an ambitious preseason slate as they took part in tournaments hosted by both Mililani and Saint Francis. Behic was buoyed by the Chargers’ play, especially in a tie with Punahou at the St. Francis tourney, given the number of sophomores currently in the lineup.

“It was a psychological win for them since we have so many young kids and we were ahead. It was probably our best performance of the preseason.”

Pearl City is off this week as they prepare for their March 3 OIA-opener at home against Aiea. Although the Chargers will have plenty of youth across the lineup, veteran leadership also is in place with the return of Sella Rodriguez, Sierra Tadiarca and Tiari Walker. Rodriguez will be the Chargers’ No. 1 pitcher for the third straight year since she transferred from the Mainland.

“Sella hits her spots real well, and she worked hard in the off-season on her secondary pitches,” said Behic, whose team went 5-7 last year. “Her offspeed pitches will help her to keep hitters off balance.”

The Chargers’ depth on the mound could be further bolstered if junior Cydny Rivera can return soon from an injury that kept her out of the end of preseason. She was awaiting medical clearance at press time.

Tadiarca and Walker are both four-year starters and figure to be among the best in the league at their positions. Tadiarca will switch to third base this year, “a better fit for her,” according to Behic. Walker “can play eight positions and she could pitch, too,” he added. “Mainly, she’ll be at right field or first base. She’s a very important part of our puzzle because of her offense.”

Pearl City’s JV team played for the OIA title last season, so the Chargers inherit a solid group of underclassmen, who are accustomed to success. Especially encouraging has been their defensive play.

“This is probably our best defensive team since 2005,” said Behic, who led Pearl City to the state championship in 2006. “We’re fast, fast, fast. They (underclassmen) have made the transition (to varsity) seamlessly.”