Waipahu Off To Strong Start In Summer League Baseball

As the Waipahu baseball team hits the straightaway of its American Legion League season, it already has the look of a team in post-season form. It also has the numbers to show for its efforts, most notably a 10-1 record through the first 11 games.

“They are loose and playing free right now, and that’s the biggest part,” said assistant coach Jared Abreau, who works alongside head coach Oly Gante. “Our summer team has players from Pearl City, Waipahu and Moanalua, and we have some college kids back with us, but they all get along.

“They enjoy playing with each other,” he added. “We have 18 on our roster, and they all go with the flow. A lot of our players are versatile, and that makes it easier for us as coaches. In the summer, it’s all about having fun.”

With their fast start, the Marauders rate among the favorites for the ALL playoffs, which begin the last week of July. The state’s ALL champion moves on to the Western regionals in Oregon next month. Waipahu last won the title in 2011.

“Everybody is coming together,” Abreau said. “Hopefully, our injuries will heal and we’ll be all right heading into the playoffs.”

Waipahu is in the midst of a 19-day layoff between games. The break should not only serve to help the return to full health, but it figures to allow its dominant pitching staff to recharge its batteries as well. “Our pitching is our strength. Our four (starters) could probably pitch for anybody.”

Bryson Yasui (Concordia College), Dylan Sugimoto (Waipahu High), Brent Sakurai (Mid-Pacific) and Sean Milan (Pearl City High) have logged most of the innings for Waipahu to date. Austin Nagamine is normally the team’s closer, but he has been recovering lately from an injury. “He’ll be ready for the playoffs,” Abreau said.

Undefeated in four starts, Yasui is currently the team’s No. 1 thrower in the rotation. “He’s matured from last year, and he’s showing great leadership. The biggest difference with the college kids who come back is that they’ve been away and they’re in college now. His change-up is his money pitch.”

Sugimoto is coming off a great junior year with the Marauders and is currently one of the top college prospects in the state. He took part in the Stanford Baseball Camp last week and was then scheduled to visit the Santa Clara campus.

“He’s a smart pitcher,” Abreau said. “He’s crafty. Since his freshman year here, his velocity on his fastball has increased. By next year, we expect him to be hitting somewhere in the mid-80s (miles per hour). He’s been getting stronger, and he’s definitely a leader for us.”

Abreau labels Sakurai as “the biggest addition” to the Marauders’ summer pitching staff, meanwhile. “He’s all-around (player) – he can hit, pitch and field. He can do everything. He’s a utility kind of guy.”

Milan has followed up an impressive spring with Pearl City by making an immediate impact for Waipahu. “His curve ball is his strength. He definitely keeps the hitters off balance.”

Waipahu’s next test comes at 4:30 p.m. next Wednesday when it hosts Campbell in a game that could go a long way in determining the league’s regular-season champion. “That will be a tough game,” Abreau said. “They have great pitching, and (Campbell) coach Rory (Pico) is awesome.”

Email Jack Danilewicz at jackster.1969@yahoo.com