Hawaii Elite 2G enters top Perfect Game tourney in Jupiter, Fla.

By winning the Perfect Game qualifier in Iowa, Hawaii Elite 2G qualified for this weekend's top-45 tourney in Jupiter, Fla.

Hawaii Elite 2G is in turbo mode.

The conglomeration of the top high school baseball players in the islands won the Perfect Game title in Iowa two weeks ago.

“We had our full team. A couple of our pitchers had scheduled shutdown periods, but for the most part, we had everyone. We had Aiva (Arquette) and (Beau) Sylvester,” Elite coach Brandon “Bu” Toro said.

Last weekend, the younger Elite competed in Arizona at a Five-Tool tournament featuring juniors and sophomores. Elite won both divisions in Arizona.

This weekend, Hawaii Elite 2G is in Jupiter, Fla., playing the top 100 club teams in the nation at the WWBA Perfect Game tournament. They opened against Ohio Select on Thursday. Today, they face the Mets scout team.

“Every game at Jupiter is big, but all these write-ups, the Mets Scout Team is favored as one of the top teams,” Toro said. “We’re pitching Parker (Grant), the hottest guy on our team pitching.”

Three of their players, Arquette, Sylvester and Zach Tenn, were committed to play for other “scout” teams prior to Elite joining the Jupiter event.

“They’re playing, but the way Jupiter works, you have to be invited, so guys like Beau got picked up by the Royals scout team. Casey Onaga has a contact with the Brewers, so he got Hawaii boys on a Brewers team out of Canada who have a Jupiter bid. Aiva and Zach committed to that team early,” Toro said.

When Hawaii Elite qualified for Jupiter, Arquette, Tenn and Sylvester couldn’t change course.

“So it hurts us for sure. We lose one of our pitchers (Tenn), our shortstop (Arquette) and catcher (Sylvester),” Toro said.

Depth is a strength.

“The good thing is our other catcher, they’re 1a and 1b, is (Kodey) Shojinaga. There’s no drop-off in production and caliber. He throws the ball better than all (catchers). As far as when he throws the ball and what he does on the field, I haven’t seen a more productive catch-and-throw guy,” Toro said. “No one will run on the guy. He’s already in double-digits with back picks or stealing one at second. It’s next level how good he is.”

Shojinaga, a standout at Mid-Pacific, has a similar role with Elite.

“He might play two or three games that week, but come in and pitch the third game if it’s a close game. He doesn’t start, but we bring him in if it’s close or we have a lead,” Toro noted.

The difference between high school and travel play makes life a little more interesting for players.

“High school baseball and the need for the program sometimes conflicts with his future, primary position. Us as a travel club, we try to be respectful, but at the end of the day, we do what’s best for his future beyond high school — as a catcher, not just as a pitcher. He pitches for us because we want to win, but he’s going to catch at the pro level,” Toro said. “He’s going to be behind the dish. A guy who throws like him and rakes, they don’t make them like him.”

The evolution of catchers over time fits the physical metrics of most Hawaii back stoppers.

“Back in the day they were big, slow guys. Now they’re athletes. (Hawaii catcher) Dallas Duarte is small and he is quick. A big guy can’t get really, really low. The top catchers can sprawl out on one leg. A 6-2, 230 guy won’t get down to the ground,” Toro said. “The mindset is working from the ground up. Vanderbilt’s catcher was 5-9 or 5-8, a buck-70, batted sixth. That’s a top-10 round catcher right there.”

If it seems like Hawaii 2G has been on the road non-stop in premier tournaments since early summer, the team has actually had breaks.

“Right after Iowa, we came home. Our pitchers rest up. The boys scrimmage on the weekends. We play in COBA. They have a league going on. There’s some scrimmages once in awhile with Hawaii Tigers. They always have Ala Wai on Sunday nights, so the boys get reps that way,” Toro said. “The kids that are distance learning, they have the easiest time, but because most public schools are in person and most private schools are requiring in-person, attendance is mandatory.”

Academics, even in a sport that has signed athletes out of high school for ages, still matter.

“The parents and the boys, we tell them what’s happening, then you needed to plan from a year ago. Keep your grades up. It’s different if you’re 3.5 or 3.8 or 4.0, and planning to travel versus, you’re struggling and on top of that you want to be gone (traveling). The kids know no one’s that good that they don’t need education, that they’re going to automatically be in the big leagues, so it’s tough,” Toro said.

“The ones that have travelled through COVID, they’re managing it easier. They’re ahead of the game academically and their parents have really cracked down. We have study hall and they’re taking tests remotely.”

Given a big opportunity to turn pro, the longtime coach doesn’t see a tough decision.

“The opportunity might not come around again. I get it, we all did that, but if I had to do it all again, yeah. Our top guys, I don’t hide the fact that I say go become a pro. That’s why you’re trying to get at D-I scholarship, to get to pro baseball,” Toro said. “You still have that leverage, that bargaining power, but if you’re physical and ready, mature enough, the special one or two or three per year, I’m 100 percent steering them to that pro offer. When we talk to pro scouts, I say the same thing. They don’t want to draft a guy that wants to go to USC or Stanford.”

This goes for elite talents Arquette and Sylvester.

“Both are top-10 talents, not just potential, but production, too. Top-10 round talent. Shane Sasaki (of ‘Iolani) was third, fourth round, Devil Rays. These two fall into that category of elite player. Production in travel ball, area code, scouting camps, the whole package. You check all the boxes: 3.8 GPA guys, physical for their position,” Toro said.

“Aiva at his size at shortstop with that athletic ability. Beau, you watch the way he overpowers the position and swings the bat. There are guys who hit home runs and guys who hit tanks. Bombs. That’s Beau. For these two, that’s why pro ball translates right away. Usually, there’s a gap between a good D-I guy and a pro guy out of high school, the physicality side. Some guys have to go to college and put on 10, 15 pounds of muscle. These guys are ready, already been in the weight room. They’re from families that put in the work.”

Arquette, also a standout basketball player at Saint Louis, was a lean, smooth wing scorer as a sophomore. By junior season, he was throwing down dunks in traffic.

“Coaching against him, and I’m good friends with his father — we’re both Kamehameha grads — you don’t know how physical the kid is until he’s in front of you. The progress he made from even ILH season to now, he became a beast over the summer, not just size and how he looks in a uniform, but how he fields and throws the ball. He has a cannon. We didn’t see that arm last year. He throws the ball across the diamond as good or better than anybody,” Toro said.

Toro doesn’t advise Arquette to focus only on his main sport.

“No, I think he should play (basketball) because he’s the best player. You don’t quit if you’re the best. However, if it interfered with him getting a D-I or pro opportunity, then yes,” Toro said.

A GoPro video shot by pitching coach Ashkhon Kuhaulua at the venerable “Field of Dreams” ballpark in Iowa is hypnotizing.

“We were in Cedar Rapids, and Dyersville is not too far away. We made the boys walk out of the corn field. It’s pretty good the way it came out, especially with the GoPro. You can slow it down and really focus on them breaking through the corn, and it really looks like the movie,” Toro said.

Hawaii Elite roster
Jupiter, Fla.
#2 Joshua Ward, OF/C/RHP, Waiakea
#4 Hunter Komine, OF, Jackson
#5 Elijah Ickes, MINF/RHP, Kamehameha
#7 Noah Hata, OF/C, Maryknoll
#9 Evan Elarionoff, 3B/1B/RHP, Kamehameha
#11 Taylin Oana, MINF/RHP, Kaiser
#12 Jett Ah Sam RHP/INF, Kalani
#14 Kodey Shojinaga, C/INF/RHP, Mid-Pacific
#16 Kodie Ecks Hanawahine, RHP, Kamehameha
#19 Keoni Painter, LHP/OF, Kamehameha-Maui
#20 Keola Yim, RHP, Kamehameha
#21 Parker Grant, RHP/INF/OF, Maryknoll
#23 Jonah Velasco, MINF, ‘Iolani
#25 Xander Sielken, 1B/3B, Saint Louis
#27 Kaena Kiakona, LHP, Kamehameha
#29 Tate Shimao, MINF/OF, ‘Iolani/Rancho Cucamonga
#44 Mikey Hinano, LHP/1B, Kailua
#50 Kaolu Holt, RHP, Kamehameha

Not playing
Aiva Arquette, SS, Saint Louis
Beau Sylvester, C, Kamehameha
Zach Tenn, P, ‘Iolani


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