Talented Kahuku Faces Kalani, Here And There, This Weekend

With all nine starters back in the fold, perhaps no team enters the 2012 prep baseball season more seasoned than Kahuku. As head coach Roger Van Ness scans his lineup, he likes the cohesiveness as much as his team’s talent level.

“They’re excited, and they’ve really come around,” he said. “Most of these kids have been playing together since they were in Little League, and we finally have a team that believes in each other and that plays for each other. It has taken us four or five years to have that. We’ll compete a lot better this year.”

Kahuku went 3-10 last season in arguably the state’s most balanced league, but probably deserved a better fate in the win-loss column, given its competitiveness. It followed up its spring season with a good showing in American Legion League play and now hopes to carry that over into 2012. Kahuku was to open OIA play last Saturday with a double-header at home versus Roosevelt. This week, it hosts Kalani at 3:30 p.m. Friday and visits the same Falcons for an 11 a.m. game Saturday.

If all goes according to plan, pitching will remain Kahuku’s forte. “All of them throw a lot of strikes, which is what I like best,” Van Ness said of his pitching staff. “They are all right-handed. In six preseason games, I think we only had six walks.”

Assisted by Gary Nagy, James Tani, Nolan Ramirez and Kerry Kumatsubara, the coach was expected to go with Spencer Nagy in game one versus Roosevelt last weekend, but was unsure of this week’s pitching for the Kalani series. Kahuku also features veteran starting pitchers in Justin Van Ness and Iukini Hughes.

“Spencer and Justin have been our most consistent so far,” Van Ness said. “Spencer is a hard thrower and a good kid. Justin has been progressing fine, and he’s going to be our No. 4 hitter. He’ll be at third when not pitching.

“Iukini is 6-3 and a hard thrower who also has good off-speed pitches,” he added of Iukini, who will play left field when not pitching. “He throws a lot of strikes like the rest of them.”

Key returnees also include Michael Sabido (P/3B/2B), Hekili Graygochea (shortstop), Kai Saniatan (catcher), Likio Vea (1B) and Kamaka Primacio (RF), and both Evan Ramirez (CF) and Sam Ching (1B), who joined the team last week after having been busy with basketball.

“Evan is probably the fastest kid on the team, and Sam is the ultimate great kid. He just comes and works. Michael is probably the hardest working kid I’ve ever coached,” he added. “He hit eight homers last year and batted over .400. Kai wrestled last year, but decided to return to baseball this season.”

Van Ness was less than pleased that Graygochea was left off of All-Conference teams last spring, earning honorable mention instead. “He’s tough, and he should have been All-State,” he said. “I don’t understand that (the voting of OIA coaches).”

Primacio rounds out what should be a solid outfield in right, while Vea is only a freshman, but could make an early impact after a stellar preseason, according to the coach.