One reason the ILH has three state-tournament berths in baseball is that there are seven varsity programs.
Pac-Five and Maryknoll are part of the tribe. Damien plays the regular season with the ILH D-I teams, then ventures into D-II for the postseason.
Maryknoll is surviving and even thriving in the state’s toughest high school baseball league. Coach Alaka‘i Aglipay has overseen the transformation since taking over for Eric Kadooka. The keys are many, but the biggest is always pitching. Parker Grant’s ascent has pushed the Spartans into new territory, another universe.
At the time of our prep feature in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on the Maryknoll baseball and basketball standout, Grant was 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA, 16 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched. In the week-plus since, Maryknoll finished 8-5-1, tied with Punahou for fourth place in the tight ILH standings behind second-place Kamehameha (9-4-1) and third-place Mid-Pacific (9-5). Saint Louis (12-1-1) has sealed a state-tourney berth. On the hardwood, playing for father Kelly Grant, he was the starting point guard and a Star-Advertiser All-Defensive team selection.
For Grant and his teammates, it has been an epic season whether they qualify for the state tournament or not. Maryknoll began the season unranked, moved into the Top 10 at No. 7 on Mar. 21, had a brief stop at No. 6 for one week, and has stood at the seventh spot to this point.
Soon enough, Grant will journey to Kansas.
“I think dorming will be pretty fun. I’m going with Kodey Shojinaga from Mid-Pacific. He’s going to be my roommate,” Grant said.
Both played for Hawaii Elite last summer. The Jayhawks are 13-18 overall, 1-5 in the Big 12. Hilo’s Maui Ahuna is their leading hitter with a .453 average and has played in all 31 games.
As a staff, Kansas has a 6.67 ERA. Ryan Vanderhel is the ace with a 5-2 mark and 4.44 ERA. He has 56 strikeouts in 46-plus innings. Only one other pitcher has an ERA below 5.44.
The offseason work with Ashkhon Kuhaulua has been invaluable, Grant noted.
“I feel like my curve ball was always natural. My slider, I only picked it up a couple years ago, but the most I’ve worked on is the change-up. It’s the difference between a pitcher being good or great,” he said. “There’s a handful of things that coach (Kuhaulua) always reminds me about. ‘Stay tall because if you sit, it’ll sail high.’ Another thing is shortening my stride (on the change-up). If you lengthen it, you won’t get on top of it and it’ll sail high.”
The bond between the coaching staff and players, Grant added, is a big part of the Spartans’ ascent. It leads to quality practices. Not perfect, he said, but purposeful.
“It’s a great thing. I think it’s another big part of our success this year, the way we practice, correcting mistakes and reflecting on games, our mistakes in our bad games and even our good games,” Grant said. “Coach will make sure to get everything in for practice. He’s not going to skip anything. We try to practice with a purpose in every drill and cut down the time on everything so we’re not there until 7:30 (p.m.).”
Parker Grant’s lockdown staples
>> Pitching glove: Wilson A2000
“Clayton Kershaw’s glove. All black. The label is neon yellow. I’ve had it a year-and-half. I got these gloves from Hawaii Elite. We have our rep, a Wilson rep, he gets all the gloves for cheap, so in the summer he’ll stock us up.”
Grant also plays second base when he is not on the mound.
>> Bats: Victus Vandal, 33 inches, 30 oz., black
“On Maui I was really hitting well with this bat. One of my coaches that I go to all the time, I don’t know if he was playing around or being serious, he said, ‘Why do you use that bat, it sucks, so I changed to DeMarini Voodoo, and I started slumping. I switched back the start of the second round when we played Damien.”
In his first three games since switching back to the Victus Vandal, Grant hit 3-for-9 with a walk, hit by pitch, four RBIs and two runs scored. Prior to that with the DeMarini, he was 3-for-19 with an RBI, four runs and two walks.
In the final four. regular-season games against Top 10 teams, he went 1-for-10.
>> Batting glove: Gardening gloves
“Me and my friend, Nunu (Nate) Hata, kind of introduced me to it because I get really had blisters on my hands, so I tried these gardening gloves and I’m not hurting or bleeding. Nunu stopped using gardening gloves this summer.
“They’re stiff at first until you break them in. I’m on my my third. They’re like $9 from City Mill. They’re white-ish, green-ish. My parents didn’t really know at first, but they said whatever works for your hands.”
>> Top 3 shows/movies
“I love that movie. It’s always been in my childhood. I’ve seen it over 100 times.”
2. “Get Smart”
3. “Outer Banks” (Netflix)
>> Top 3 food/snack/drink
1. Ahi poke (Off The Hook in Manoa)
2. Cheesecake (Red Lobster)
“My auntie used to work there. She would give a whole one for our family but I’d be the one eating it, basically.”
3. Coconut water (Vita Coco)
>> Favorite homemade
“My mom (Mia)’s chicken piccata. She does rice or pasta on the bottom. Hers just tastes better than most restaurants to me.”
>> Top 3 music artists
1. J Boog – “If I Ever”
2. The Green – “Take Me On”
3. Lil Tecca – “Never Left”
>> Favorite team/athlete
MLB: Milwaukee Brewers. Jacob deGrom
NBA: Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose
NFL: Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers
>> Favorite class/teacher
World History. Mr. Ching, sixth grade and eighth grade at Maryknoll.
“He would just get personable with me and talk about life. He always believed in me, in everything in life.”
>> GPA: 3.49
>> Funniest teammate
“I wouldn’t say I have a funniest teammate, but my pitching coach is funny. Scotty Peters. He doesn’t even try to make us laugh, but he keeps us relaxed, talking about random things. I mean like, sometimes when he’s talking to the pitchers he gets off topic. He’s a really good pitching coach.”
>> Smartest teammate
“Miles Quemuel-Labrador. His GPA is like a 4.3, 4.4 or something like that. He’s going to play baseball at Washington University at Saint Louis and their acceptance rate is under 10 percent.”
>> Teammate most likely to coach
“Nunu Hata. He’s a great leader and he coaches up the younger guys on our team every day. He’s a big reason why we’re doing this well versus previous years.”
>> New life skill
“I started helping out this basketball clinic, Legacy Hoops Hawaii. It’s every weekend and it’s helped me be more vocal and get better at helping them with their goals. I haven’t been a vocal person, but as a senior I had to be more vocal and talkative.”
>> Bucket list
“Sky dive. Maybe go to Paris. I think it goes back to Ratatouille.”
>> Hidden talent
“I don’t really know a hidden talent. What about fishing? I’m not that good, but I’m decent. Once in a while we dunk. You throw your pole and let it sit. Or there’s trolling and stuff. I’m more of a sit and relax and talk story fisher, wait around and hopefully get lucky.”
>> Time machine
“I don’t really have a year, but I would meet family I haven’t met before. Talk story and have dinner. I would say like my mom’s mom because I didn’t really get to meet her. I just hear great stories about her, how she was a great person.”
>> Shout outs
‘Shout out to my family, teammates and coaches, being on my side in this journey I’ve done. I wouldn’t be in this place I am without them.”