Kapolei is getting used to a different level of baseball.
Waialua is constantly working year in and year out just to keep a baseball team on the field.
Metropolitan Kapolei does not need to look very hard to find players. In agriculturally based Waialua, sometimes players are few and far between.
After the Hurricanes defeated the Bulldogs 14-3 on Saturday, the head coaches of the two teams had differing perspectives, too.
“It’s all about developing for us,” said Waialua coach Terry Onizuka, whose team fell to 3-3 in the OIA White after the loss. “We have four freshmen on a roster of about 16 and two of them are starters. Others are inexperienced and have not played much baseball. We only have five seniors.”
Onizuka, whose dad’s first cousin was the late Ellison Onizuka, the astronaut from the Big Island who died tragically in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, said each year the question arises on whether to field a junior varsity team. This year, there is no JV team. In other recent years, the school has gone with a JV team that didn’t last through the whole season.
“It’s difficult when you have freshmen and seniors playing different calibers of baseball on the same team,” he said. “You are trying to teach some how to play the game and you’re also trying to field a competitive team. This is nothing new for us.”
Onizuka says his high school players do community service mentoring youth players at clinics. It helps create a bond and a pathway from youth baseball to high school.
“We lose a lot of players from when they’re 8-10 to when they come up here at 13-14,” Onizuka said.
One thing in particular Onizuka said he is lacking this year is leaders.
“It’s harder for a team to function without leaders,” he said. “Coaches can lead you in practice, but they can’t lead you on the field. It has been a big hole for us this year.”
At Kapolei, the problem is a lot different. The Hurricanes (6-1), who were used to playing in Division I, were dropped down a level to D-II this season for the first time.
“They figure they should be Division I,” Kapolei coach Thomas Ebanez said. “So, they’ve been putting pressure on themselves.”
Ebanez said the Hurricanes batters are finally settling down lately and he’s hoping his ace, Ekolu Young, has his breakout game on Wednesday in a first-place battle agaimst Aiea (6-0) at Hans L’Orange Park.
Ebanez has his kids practicing hard.
“Friends will ask me why we’re practicing so hard since we’re in Division II,” he said. “They think all we have to do is show up and dominate. That is not the case. We need improvement on a lot of things, including being consistent at playing good baseball. The way I look at it is: you show up to practice in search of playing a perfect game, when all 20 to 22 guys are contributing and are playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Young, who got the win against Waialua on Saturday with seven strikeouts in three innings, is pumped up for the challenge against Aiea.
“Oh yeah, we’re ready,” he said emphatically. We’re very ready and everybody is on the same page.”