Waipahu Marauders Celebrate A Perfect Baseball Season

The Waipahu baseball team spent last week going over how to celebrate. Having produced the school’s first-ever state championship in baseball only days before, there was enough afterglow to go around.

Even longtime head coach Milton Takenaka, normally low-key, was caught up in it.

“All the support the kids have been receiving has been great,” he said. “They’ve been like celebrities here at the school. When we first started the season, we set our goals.

“First was to make the playoffs, then to do well in the OIA (post-season) and, finally, to play well at the state tournament.”

The Marauders did all that and more, completing a perfect season at 15-0. In the DII state title game May 11, they played a defensive gem to eke out a 1-0 win over top-seeded Waiakea. Winning pitcher Micah Luke also showed his share of grit after loading the bases on three separate occasions in that game.

He got out of each of those predicaments and went on to deliver the game-winning hit on a double to left that had plated Drake Yoshioka, who had fueled the inning for Waipahu with a oneout single.

Luke, Yoshioka and fellow senior leaders Jarinn Abreu and Dylan Sugimoto depart the program having been among the best to come out of the school.

“They stepped it up and took on the leadership role this year,” Takenaka said. “They pushed the younger kids. We were relatively young except for Micah, Dylan, Jarinn and Drake when we first started out. We kept telling the kids that, potentially, we could be good, but that we would have to work, and the kids bought in.

“The kids deserve all the credit. The coaches were there to guide them, but the kids are the ones that did all the work.”

Takenaka credited a trip in March to Arizona as another key factor in 2012, as it gave the Marauders a chance to come together in addition to competing with first-rate programs.

“That helped us a lot. We were still young then, and it gave our kids an opportunity to play in more games. They got better as the season went along. That was a big thing.”

The riveting finish also has caused Takenaka to rethink his own position. Having just finished his 28th season, he had been pondering retirement.

“I haven’t made a decision yet, but I’m thinking about it,” said Takenaka, who has led Waipahu to three OIA titles in addition to this year’s state title.

“We’re moving up to Division I for sure next year, so I may be leaning toward coming back for another year.”

Takenaka’s assistant coaching staff is well-seasoned also. Assistant Leighton Kaapana has been on Takenaka’s staff for nearly 20 years, while fellow assistants Orlando Gante, Shane Mitsui and brothers John and Jared Abreu have been with the program for a decade.

Miles Takahashi has just completed his first year on the staff.

“It’s a tight coaching staff – those guys all do a good job,” Takenaka said.

Waipahu was to begin American Legion League play over the weekend.