Strong Start For Chargers Baseball Despite Preseason Play

For every team in the ultra-competitive OIA Red West Conference, the schedule always includes a key stretch of games against the league’s elite.

There can be no doubt that Pearl City and first-year head baseball coach Gavin Concepcion and his Chargers currently are in the midst of one such stretch on their slate, which began with last Saturday’s game against two-time defending state tournament runner-up Mililani.

This Saturday, a home date with Waipahu looms for Pearl City, with games against Radford March 17 and Campbell March 21 to follow at home. Mililani, Waipahu, Radford (in Division II) and Campbell (defending OIA Red champ) were all state tournament qualifiers a year ago and figure to have a big impact on the league’s race.

Concepcion welcomes the stiff competition out of the gate.

“It’s easy to create that mentality of getting up and getting ready to play when you go against those types of teams because you know the team in the other dugout is going to be ready,” he said. “You have to love the competition. Knowing you have to perform, it brings out the excitement for everybody — the players, coaches and fans. Setting the tone for the season is pretty big for us.”

Pearl City passed its first test of the season last week, when the Chargers defeated

Leilehua 7-4 in the Red West opener. In addition to a solid effort on the mound from starter Trenton Darley, who picked up the win, the Chargers didn’t commit a single error, defensively, with all three Mules’ runs having been earned.

“Most of the preseason, we’d been kicking the ball around (on defense) a bit,” said Concepcion, who helped lead the Chargers to an OIA title back in 1999 as a player.

“We were making errors, or we’d misplay a ball, or we’d throw to the wrong base in a situation. The emphasis throughout pre-season was to become more solid and consistent, and our improvement showed in our play (versus Leilehua). I was very happy with the effort. We put ourselves in a good position to compete with Leilehua.”

On the offensive side, Pearl City drew nine walks through patience at the plate and generated seven runs on just three hits.

“One emphasis has been on good pitch selection and on understanding the situation, and we’re headed in the right direction in that regard,” Concepcion said. “Leilehua’s pitcher (Trayson) Kubo is one of the better pitchers, and we’ll be seeing a lot of guys like that, especially against teams like Campbell.”

On Saturday, the Chargers are sure to face another marquee pitcher when they host Waipahu at 3 p.m.

“Waipahu is always a competitive team, always fiery, and there’s that type of excitement whenever you play them,” Concepcion said. “For us, we need to stay with what we do — pitch, play good defense, and have our bats put us in a good situation. We don’t have just one team leader. We want them all collectively to take responsibility to get better and better and make each other better.”

For its part, Waipahu also opened their 2015 season in impressive fashion with a 6-3 road win over Radford last week. The Marauders visit Campbell Wednesday for another key encounter before turning their attention to Saturday’s game against Pearl City. The Chargers, who won four straight OIA Titles from 2007-2010, were just 3-9 a year ago and missed qualifying for the first time in recent memory.