Waipahu Baseball Team Facing Pivotal Lineup This Week

When Milton Takenaka talked to his Waipahu baseball team about the challenges that lay ahead in moving up to Division I this spring, he had weeks like this one in mind.

The Marauders were to play Kapolei Monday before a Wednesday road game at Pearl City. An equally pivotal game at home with Aiea awaits on Saturday. The outcome of all three could have a huge impact on where Waipahu is seeded for the OIA post-season tournament.

“We told the kids before the season that it was time to move on and that we’d done everything we could in Division II,” said Takenaka, who coached Waipahu to the DII state title last May. “In Division I, every game will be a big game – it won’t be like before in DII when you might have a good game one day and then maybe a blowout the next.

“Every game is important. The No. 1 factor right now is to get into the playoffs, and everything after that is gravy – being that it’s our first year in the Red (conference).”

The Marauders have transitioned nicely to the Red, having taken a 4-2 mark into last weekend’s game with league-leader Campbell. That game also marked their beginning of the second half of the Red West slate.

Waipahu had won two in a row heading into the weekend, posting wins over Leilehua 10-7 and Mililani 4-1. Wednesday’s matchup with Pearl City will be the second between the teams. Waipahu won the first one 3-2 on the Chargers’ home field. “That was a big win for us,” Takenaka said. “Pearl City is always up there. (Wednesday’s game) will come down to who makes the least mistakes.”

Takenaka was unsure who would start against Pearl City, since he’s been rotating veterans Dylan Sugimoto and Josh Maglangit. One of the talented duo will get the call Saturday when they play Aiea, which handed Waipahu one of its two losses, by an 11-1 count March 13.

Sugimoto earned the win in the first meeting with Pearl City and also picked up the win in the Mililani contest.

More on Takenaka’s mind of late has been shoring up Waipahu’s defense. “We expect to be in the game with Dylan or Josh pitching, but we have to help out with defense and hitting. Josh has been giving us good outings. Defensively, we’re still a work in progress. We’ve been getting by, but we’ve been kind of disappointed that the defense has let us down. I expected us to be a whole lot better (defensively) by this time.”

Offensively, Waipahu tal-lied 14 runs in its previous games against Mililani and Leilehua. “We’re starting to hit the ball now – we just have to cut down on our mistakes. Justin Padilla has been hitting the ball well the last few games. Tyler (Enos) has been hitting the ball pretty good, also.”

On the heels of this week’s games, Waipahu will finish its season next week with games at home against Mililani April 10 and at Leilehua April 13.

The top six Red West teams advance to the OIA tournament. At 4-2 heading into last weekend, the Marauders stood a half-game ahead of both Mililani and Pearl City in second place in the standings. The top two teams from the West earn first-round byes for the conference tournament.