Knights’ Baseball Gang Leaves Comfort Zone, Heads To States

While the Castle baseball program will make its first appearance in four years at the state tournament this week, the players have had the look of a team that’s used to being there every year.

Indeed, as Knights’ first-year head coach Rocky Fraticelli scans the team resume to date, he likes what he sees.

“After the Campbell game, I made mention to the players that this wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t been willing to come out of their comfort zone,” said Fraticelli, whose team has won 10 of their last 12 games, and are 10-6 overall. “The kids deserve a lot of credit, and so do the coaches. When I first met with them back in September, I thought we had put together a very good coaching staff. I delegate, and they coach the team. I have to use their experience.”

Coaching changes often lead to a year of transition issues, but the staff and players minimized the effects of a change in culture throughout the program. Fraticelli’s staff includes Kerry Okumura (outfield), Don Hugo (hitting/catchers), Laramie DeSoto (infield), Sam Kakazu (infield) and Duane Fraticelli, brother of Rocky and the Knights’ pitching coach. (Duane is one of only two nationally certified pitching coaches in the state, along with Kailua head coach Corey Ishigo).

On the field, the Knights have relied on solid pitching and enough timely hitting to get over the hump. Four of their five losses were by a single run, while they also posted three wins in other games decided by one run.

As during the regular season, Castle will depend on starting pitchers Dustin Nakayama, Eric Akamine and Christian Kapeliela this week to help continue the winning ways. Pairings for this week’s tournament, which runs Tuesday through Friday (at UH Manoa’s Murakami Stadium and at Iolani School), were to be revealed after press time.

During the recent OIA tournament, Nakayama pitched two complete games, while Akamine and Kapeliela also were able to go the distance in both of their starts. Castle went 3-1 in the tournament to nab one of the league’s state berths. Fraticelli said that pitchers Andre Fraticelli, Keaton Loui, Froy Smith Jr. and Alika Sakurai will see action this week.

“Our pitching staff has been good,” he said, noting Castle’s 2.07 ERA through 12 games. “We weren’t happy committing 33 errors (during the season), but we had only four in our four (OIA) tournament games.”

With pitching as its strength, manufacturing runs will be a key to success this week. Fraticelli was buoyed by the boys’ offensive play at the OIA Tournament.

“I’m a stickler to statistics, and our regular-season batting average was .284. During our four OIA (playoffs) games, we batted .312, so that’s a positive, since we were going up against the best pitchers from those teams. We’ll get back to (batting practice) this week. We’ve had some people tail off lately, and we’ve had some others step up.”