Every act of aloha counts. Click here to DONATE to the MAUI RELIEF Fund.            

Waipahu Snags State Berth In Baseball

Farewell tours aren’t Milton Takenaka’s style. Waipahu High’s outgoing head baseball coach never left any doubt that it’s all about the kids during his long tenure, which began in 1985 – the year the Marauders captured an OIA championship.

His thoughts this week are on his current team, rather than the end of his long career, which included winning three OIA titles and a state championship. When the 2013 season runs its course, he will then step away quietly.

“It would always be good to see the kids come in and see how they play and then mature,” he said, “and this group has been good in that way. We have a junior-laden team, and it’s a good bunch of kids.”

Regarding his pending retirement? “I still enjoy it, but I think this is good time to get out and let the younger guys come in and coach. I really didn’t expect to be coaching this long when I first started, but after about six or seven years I decided I’d keep going as long as I still enjoyed it.”

Takenaka’s 2013 team has been among the more entertaining ones, having made a nice transition from DII last season, when Waipahu won a state title, to Division I, where it has gone 9-6 versus OIA opponents.

Pairings for the state baseball tournament, running Wednesday-Saturday at Iron Maehara Stadium on Maui, were to be revealed Sunday evening.

Takenaka’s approach will be the same as it’s always been. “Our staff is old school. You can never play the perfect game, but we always tell the kids – and they laugh about it – that they’re going to still hear about it from us, whether or not they play well or play poorly.”

Waipahu enters this week having won four of its last six, and it took sixth at the recent OIA tournament to ensure one of the league’s five berths at states. Regardless of the first-round opponent, Takenaka will go with pitching ace Dylan Sugimoto as his starter for Wednesday’s game. “We hope to play four games in four days, but we have to win the first one to stay, so he’ll be the guy.”

Senior Joshua Maglangit, junior Tyler Enos and sophomore Justin Kaeka all are scheduled to pitch this week as well, although match-ups for Thursday, Friday and Saturday games will influence who gets the call. Sugimoto would likely be available to start again on Saturday, should the team remain in the mix.

The theme lately has been “to finish,” according to Takenaka. “The overall attitude of the team has been good – they never give up,” he said. “The last few weeks, that’s been our attitude going in – that we need to play all the way to the end.”

Although young in its roster, perhaps no team in the state tournament field has been involved in more close games than Waipahu, which has seen seven of its 15 games decided by two runs or less. The Marauders are 4-3 in that span.

Offensively, they’ve been hitting their stride of late, having tallied 26 runs in the last six games. “We’re starting to hit the ball better,” Takenaka said. “Our main concern is our defense, which is still not there yet. Hopefully, we can play well enough (defensively) to get through.”