Waipahu ALL Team Competes In Northwest Regional Tourney

For all the athleticism on the Waipahu baseball team’s current American Legion Summer League roster, team unity shouldn’t be underestimated, in coach Jared Abreu’s view.

“When we put this team together, the first thing we stressed was that they be able to get along together,” said Abreu. “It’s a long season in the summer, and they have to be able to work together. This group has.”

The ALL team has players returning to the Marauders high school roster as well as players from other schools with West side ties who are home from college for the break. Waipahu’s summer group is like an All-Star team, providing new challenges to team chemistry.

Results have been stellar on the field, as Waipahu went 18-2 in the Hawaii portion of its schedule en route to capturing a fourth straight 19-and-under ALL state championship recently. The Marauders defeated Mid-Pacific 9-7 in the title game and are in Eugene this week for the ALL Northwest Regional tournament (Thursday through next Monday). The winner in Oregon advances to the ALL World Series Aug. 16-20 in Shelby, N.C.

Waipahu flew to Montana each of the past two years for their regional round; the 2010 Regionals were in Las Vegas.

“The kids are excited – they’ve been working toward this all summer,” said Abreu, whose staff includes Oly Gante, Kerry Kiyabu and John Abreu. “They’re happy to leave the island, and this year it’s in Eugene, which is new for them.”

Waipahu’s only two losses came to Campbell in the regular season and to Kalani in the first round of the state playoffs. As it prepared to leave for Oregon, keeping the offense on track remained a high priority, according to Abreu. “We gave up plenty of runs, so we can’t say right now that pitching was our strength. Toward the end (of the state tourney), maybe our pitchers were a little tired, but they gave us their all, and we couldn’t ask for more from them.

“Our bats (carried Waipahu). We averaged more runs in the playoffs than in the regular season. Our hitting came alive. We averaged eight runs a (playoff) game.”

Drake Yoshioka, who graduated from Waipahu in the spring, led the way, batting .570 during the playoffs to win the batting title. Most Valuable Player and Most Inspirational Player honors both went to Tanner Tokunaga, who will be a senior at Pearl City.

On the defensive side, Abreu credited Brent Sakurai (Mid-Pacific) with having “a tremendous (playoff) series.” Sakurai splits his time between pitching, shortstop and third base for Waipahu this summer.

Waipahu will meet a team from Idaho in its first-round game on Thursday. The regionals use a double-elimination format, so Waipahu is guaranteed to play at least two games. Abreu expects to go with Bryson Yasui (Concordia College) and Waipahu High’s own Dylan Sugimoto as his starters for the first two games. Sugimoto is coming off a great junior year and is currently one of the top college prospects in the state.

Waipahu’s success this summer also owes a lot to its ability to win the close games, a trend that should serve the team well next week. “We did just enough to win,” Abreu said. “Everyone played well in the (Hawaii) league. We just made one or two plays more than the other teams usually. Pitching and defense are the two main things (at regionals).”