Pearl City Baseball Looks Solid In Red West First Round

When Pearl City baseball coach Mitch Yamato fills out his lineup card on game day, he sees a lot of underclassmen throughout, but he’s hardly alone.

“From what I’m hearing from the other coaches, the whole league is young. It will be interesting to see how these underclassmen perform because there’s a lot riding on them. It’s going to be fun.”

One thing is certain: There’s no let-up in the schedule for members of the OIA Red West, where parity will be the order of the day this spring. Even for Pearl City, which has been one of the state’s best for a decade, the slate is challenging. Following the 3 p.m. Saturday road date with defending DII state champion Waipahu, games with Mililani (at home), Campbell (away) and Aiea (home) closely follow to conclude the division’s first round of play.

“Hopefully, we can stay on top or close, heading into the second round,” said Yamato, who led Pearl City to the 2011 state title in his first season as its head coach.

His current group looked like the prototypical Pearl City team on opening day when it beat a good Kapolei team 17-3. The Chargers were to meet Leilehua over the weekend before turning their attention to the Waipahu game.

“We’ve hit the ball well, scoring 17 runs (versus Kapolei),” Yamato said. “It’s still early in the season, so defensively, we’re all right, but not where we want to be. We’re a work in progress.”

Yamato also has veterans in seniors Sean Milan and Kamalu Neal and junior Tanner Tokunaga. The trio were all part of Charger teams that made deep runs into the post-season in their freshman and sophomore seasons, including the 2011 state title.

“They’re all playing well,” Yamato said of his leaders, “and Kyle Tom has stepped up his game. Everyone has been doing their part. We’re close to where we want to be.” Throughout preseason and in the early going of the Red West slate, getting his underclassmen “up to the speed of the game,” has been a theme for Yamato.

“They’re not used to it (speed) at that level yet. Things like reacting to the ball have to be quicker. We’re lucky to have a naturally talented group, which helps to some degree. Hopefully, we can get better with each game.”

With seven days off preceding the Waipahu game, Yamato will be able to call on the full complement of his pitching staff, as the whole staff will be rested. “We’re lucky – we have a decent pool to choose from this year. We’ll see in practice. It will be a game-time decision (on starting pitcher).”

Adding intrigue to Saturday’s matchup is that the teams haven’t met in many years as Waipahu’s been in Division II since the league split into two classes. Waipahu had an open date the first day of the Red West’s season. The Marauders, who are led by Dylan Sugimoto and Joshua Maglangit, were to open their league slate over the weekend versus Kapolei.