Waipahu’s Pitching Among Best In OIA

For the Waipahu baseball team, the road to another OIA championship began in March in Arizona, where they made a preseason trip.

With only three seniors back in the fold, the trip served as the underclassmen’s initiation into varsity-level baseball.

“I think it really helped us that we went on a trip before our spring break,” longtime head coach Milton Takenaka said. “We were going with mostly younger kids, and it was a good experience for them.”

The momentum gained on that trip carried over for the Marauders, who took an 8-0 record into their OIA White Conference showdown with nemesis Radford over the weekend. The Rams also were undefeated through eight games, so the two-game series with Waipahu would not only determine the White West champion, but would earn the winner a first-round bye for next week’s OIA DII tournament. (The top three finishers at the OIA tournament will secure berths for next month’s DII state tournament.)

Although Takenaka has been buoyed by the progress of his under-classmen (four sophomores and three juniors), seniors Micah Luke, Drake Yoshioka and Jarinn Abreu remain the leaders. They all were key components in Waipahu’s state tournament run last year, when it advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Kauai, 3-2. Along with sophomore Dylan Sugimoto, the trio form one of the better pitching staffs in the OIA.

“The pitching has been our strength,” said Takenaka. “We have the depth to go far. We’re optimistic about that. We’ve hit the ball off and on, but we have four front-line pitchers. Dylan is only a sophomore, but he’s already a two-year starter.”

Through its first eight games, Waipahu’s pitching staff had posted three shutouts. “The seniors are veterans, and they know what to expect now. Drake got off to a slow start because of a football injury. He wasn’t cleared right away, but he’s close to being back at 100 percent now. Jarinn also has pitched well, and he’s hit the ball pretty good.

“Micah has had to play all over the place,” Takenaka added of Luke, whose more natural position is third base. “We weren’t as deep as far as numbers early in the season, and we had to put him in center field when Dylan was pitching, but he’s done a good job and he’s been hitting the ball pretty good.”

The team is off this week as they await next week’s OIA playoffs. “We will probably take a few days off and come back fresh,” said the coach.

Pairings for the OIA tournament were to be known last weekend when the regular season concluded.