Young HPU Softball Team Hosts Doubleheader Friday In Kaneohe

The afterglow from Hawaii Pacific University’s 2010 national title run in softball still burns brightly. Sea Warrior head coach Bryan Nakasone is reminded of it every morning when he logs onto his computer.

“I receive about 100 emails a day on average,” he said of prospective recruits. “It’s quite an honor to have them show interest in us.”

HPU went 50-8 en route to winning that title and has continued to thrive under Nakasone, topping the 30-win plateau in each season since. Should its upward mobility continue this spring, it will have to be with a roster of relative unknowns, as HPU has only two seniors and four returning starters.

“We’re curious to see what happens this year,” admitted Nakasone. “I consider this a rebuilding year with nine new players. We also lost a couple of key players to academics, but we’re working through this.

“We’re not proven yet,” he added. “We have to get out there and see what we’re all about.”

Among those expected to have an impact this season is Castle High product Chandell Dacosin, who will play right field in addition to doing some pitching.

“She was determined to make the starting lineup, and she’ll have a lot of playing time,” Nakasone said. “She’s one of the hardest workers we have on the team. She continually tries to work hard.”

HPU will count on returning starters to lead the way in 2014, led by sophomore pitcher Kristen Caskey, who is 2014 PacWest Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Caskey went 12-5 as a freshman with an ERA of 1.95 in 188.2 innings of work. She ranked fourth in the PacWest in runs allowed, giving up just 41.

Caskey was named to PacWest’s All-Pre-Season Team along with returnees Sharae Esprecion, Dorian Acierto and Keila Elderts.

Elderts made both the National Fastpitch Coaching Association and the Daktronics All-Region Teams in 2013 after batting .428 with 48 runs, eight doubles, five triples, 26 RBI and 21 stolen bases. Acierto, who earned a spot on PacWest’s Second Team as a third baseman, hit .345 with 26 RBI last spring. Esprecion had a solid freshman season in 2013, meanwhile, hitting .333 in 44 games.

Junior outfielder Toni Baysa, a Mililani graduate, also returns to the fold.

While this will be one of Nakasone’s younger teams, he likes the talent he’s assembled. “They’ve been coming around strong. Our team speed would be our strength, and I like their enthusiasm on the field. We’re small in stature, but we have very gutsy players. Hopefully, we’ll be ready.”

Solidifying the infield and improving pitching depth have been priorities of late. “We have Caskey, but then we’ll be using some kids who haven’t pitched since high school. We’ll have to resurrect them.”

HPU was to open its season with a twin-bill against Western Washington, but rain canceled both. Chaminade and BYUH games were set for Saturday before turning attention to this Friday’s exhibition doubleheader with University of Regina, starting at 1 p.m. at Howard Okita Field on the Kaneohe campus.

A six-day, 10-game road trip follows Feb. 17. “The trip will be very critical since they all will be conference games.”