Waipahu Takes Regional Title, Moves Into World Series

There was no direct line to the World Series for Waipahu’s American Legion League Baseball team. Their stellar regular season on Hawaiian soil seemed a long time gone when the Marauders found themselves one pitch away from elimination at the Northwest Regionals in Eugene, Ore., recently.

“We took the long route,” said Waipahu coach Jared Abreu.

With Waipahu’s Bryson Yasui facing an 0-2 count at the plate, with two outs in the bottom half of the ninth in their game with Cheyenne, Wyo., and the Marauders down two runs, it all looked bleak. Instead, Yasui singled to fuel a three-run inning that allowed Waipahu to escape their predicament and secure a riveting 8-7 win, as well as advancement in the tournament. Waipahu won five straight games following a first-round loss to advance to this week’s World Series.

The Marauders have been in Shelby, N.C., since last Thursday. While they regarded their trip to the East Coast as a business trip, it was well on their minds that they’d already accomplished their share.

“For us as coaches, it was always all about the players,” Abreu said. “They’re pretty ecstatic, and they deserved it. They played their hearts out.”

Including their regular season, Waipahu’s record stood at 23-4, heading into last weekend. The World Series, which began last Friday, was televised by ESPN 3. But regardless of their fate over the weekend, Waipahu already has had a summer to remember.

Waipahu’s American Legion League team includes not just players expected to return to the Marauders’ high school team, but players from other schools with ties to the West side who have returned home from college for the summer. (Waipahu’s regional appearance was their fourth in as many years.)

As during the Hawaii phase of their schedule, Yasui was among the Marauders’ leaders in Eugene, earning Most Valuable Player honors. He was the starting pitcher in two of Waipahu’s games, including the Regional title game, a 14-3 win over Eugene. Abreu credited Waipahu’s offense with driving the Marauders across the finish line.

“We hit the hell out of the ball – we had a team average of .408,” said Abreu, whose staff includes Oly Gante, Kerry Kiyabu and John Abreu. “In a five-game span, we had 56 hits. Everyone contributed. Our pitching held up just enough, and we made one more play than the other team.”

Among the members of Waipahu’s A.L.L. team are Drake Yoshioka, who graduated from Waipahu in the spring, and Pearl City senior-to-be Tanner Tokunaga, who hit .570 during the state playoffs to win the batting title. Both were part of Waipahu’s pitching rotation this summer, along with fellow standouts Dylan Sugimoto, Kamalu Neal and Brent Sakurai.

“We’re playing our best baseball of the summer right now,” Abreu said shortly before Waipahu departed for the East Coast. “Hopefully, that momentum will carry over. We knew we had a good team, but they needed to all get along, and they’ve come together.”