Tai Atkins didn’t want to leave his hometown.
In Kapaau, life is slower, family is close by and, according to Atkins, there is nothing better. But prior to seventh grade, his family relocated to Mountain View, moving from one corner of the island to another. He grew there, attending Kamehameha-Hawaii, developing his talent on the baseball diamond.
Atkins’ senior year saw a pinnacle, sparking his Warriors to the BIIF Division II title with an unbeaten record that included wins over D-I powerhouses Waiakea and Hilo. Atkins finished the season with an 8-0 mark and 0.84 ERA. The crafty southpaw used a tailing 87 mph fastball and dynamic curve ball to strike out 79 batters with just six walks in 41 innings.
Coaches and media voted Atkins the Star-Advertiser Baseball All-State pitcher of the year. For the complete All-State baseball teams, click here.
One of his biggest inspirations came from grandparents Doug and Anne Atkins. They always made the long drive from Kohala to the KS-Hawaii campus, and any other baseball field the Warriors played on, just to see their grandson.
“All my family still lives in Kohala. They come in and visit kind of often. They come to every game, all of them. Kapaau is very kamaaina, everybody knows each other. It’s family friendly, but they also love to compete,” Atkins said. “That competitiveness rubbed off into my game now. I’m playing against people I’ve known all my life, but when it’s game time, it’s game time.”
The position player of he year honor went to ‘Iolani catcher Micah Yonamine. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior clubbed 11 home runs, drove in 34 runs and batted .500. He also had an on-base percentage of .538, a slugging average of 1.150 and an OPS of 1.688.
The ‘Iolani senior received seven college scholarship offers before signing with Illinois State next season. He plan to major in kinesiology. There is a chance that he will be selected in the upcoming MLB draft. Last week, he worked out in California with 11 other prospects for an MLB team. The season didn’t start out quite this way. It was teammate and center fielder Shane Sasaki, the highest-rated prospect in the state, who drew a lot of attention from scouts.
“With Shane on our team, we had scouts at almost every game. I worked out for a couple of teams here when they came down to Hawaii,” Yonamine said. “That was the first time I went to California for a workout. It’s good to see where you match up with other prospects. Everyone (else) was from Southern California.”
Sasaki finished second in the position player of the year voting, and Waiakea center fielder Kala‘i Rosario was third.
Yonamine knew something was different when he and his teammates attended a Hawaii game at Les Murakami Stadium.
“Three people came up to Shane and me, and asked for our autographs,” Yonamine said. “They were all adults.”
Here’s a look at this year’s first-team selections.
Tai Atkins, KS-Hawaii, P, Sr.
The 5-11, 160-pound left-hander always had velocity, but the control he achieved as a senior surprised even him. The 8-0 record, 0.84 ERA, 79 strikeouts and six walks in 41 innings — permitting just 19 hits — were eye-popping, as was his performance against the BIIF’s D-I powers, including Waiakea and its potent offense. He limited the Warriors to one earned run, struck out nine and walked just one in KS-Hawaii’s win. Waiakea’s top three hitters went 1-for-8 against Atkins with five strikeouts, but later went 19-for-31 at the D-I state tournament. Atkins will pitch at Hawaii next season.
Ayzek Silva, Campbell, P, Sr.
The calm, fire-balling southpaw went 6-1 with a 1.11 ERA for the Sabers. In 38 innings, he fanned 58 and walked 15, permitting just 24 hits. He didn’t get to start at the state tournament until after the Sabers had been upset and eliminated, but Silva still shut out Maui with eight K’s.
Jason Shiigi, Mililani, P, Sr.
The Trojans relied on pitching heavily this season to win the OIA title and reach the state championship game. Shiigi was consistent, a workhorse who pitched 43 innings. He was 4-0 with one save and a 1.28 ERA. He allowed just 19 hits, struck out 32 and walked only 16. In the state tourney, he shut out a hot Kamehameha team with a two-hitter, striking out nine and walking just one.
Micah Yonamine, ‘Iolani, C, Sr.
After going homer-less as a junior, Yonamine worked out constantly in the weight room, kept taking his daily cuts and turned into a long-ball basher. He finished the season with 11 HRs, 34 RBIs, 19 runs scored and an OPS of 1.688. His compact swing is an impressive sight on a 6-4 frame. He will play at Illinois State.
Safea Mauai, Waiakea, 1B, Jr.
Exceptionally flexible and skilled with the glove at first base, Mauai batted third n the Warriors lineup and batted .417 with 20 RBIs and 12 runs scored. He finished with an OPS of 1.146. He was scorching hot at the state tournament, batting .500 (5-for-10) with five RBIs and two runs.
Jake Tsukada, Punahou, 2B/SS, Sr.
The lefty-hiring shortstop suffered an arm injury late in the season, necessitating a switch to second base with teammate Kalae Harrison. Tsukada’s timely hitting was a major factor for Punahou in its run to the state crown. He batted .377 with two HRs, 24 RBIs, 22 runs scored and an OPS of 1.065. He hit .444 with two RBIs, three runs, a triple, double, two walks and a stolen base at the state tournament.
Makana Murashige, Punahou, 3B, Sr.
The skilled hot-corner man batted .437 with a HR, 18 RBIs and 15 runs scored. He finished the season with a 1.129 OPS. He was clutch at the state tourney, batting .375. His grand slam in the semifinal round against Kaiser was a huge boost for the Buffanblu.
Stone Miyao, Waiakea, SS, Sr.
The left-handed hitting leadoff man batted .436 with a HR, 18 RBIs and 15 runs scored. He was especially hot at the state tourney, hitting .750 (6-for-8) with two RBIs and four runs scored for the Warriors.
Kala‘i Rosario, Waiakea, OF, Jr.
Great arm, great range, hits for average, power and runs the bases well. Rosario is built like a linebacker, which is true enough since he is a DE/OLH for the Waiakea football team. He’s a natural on the diamond, however. Batting second, he hit .431 with five HRs, 31 RBIs, 25 runs scored and five stolen bases. He was incredibly hot at states, belting two home runs at Iron Maehara Stadium, where long balls are rare. He hit .616 (8-for-13) at the state tourney with six RBIs and six runs scored. His final OPS for the season was 1.331.
Shane Sasaki, ‘Iolani, OF, Sr.
Sasaki was supreme in just about every possible way with a golden arm from center field, tremendous range, savvy baserunning, hitting for average and power. He batted .565 and smacked five homers with 26 RBIs and 26 runs scored. He had an OPS of 1.459 and stole eight bases.
Kevin Varner, Baldwin, OF/P, Sr.
Varner batted .490 with one homer and an OPS of 1.181. He hit .444 (4-for-9) at states and also pitched for a save in a quarterfinal win over Waiakea.
Caleb Lomavita, Saint Louis, U, So.
Lomavita saw significant playing time at catcher as a freshman. This year, he was prominently at first base when he wasn’t on the mound. He was superb at both positions. He batted .465 with two homers, 21 RBIs, 22 runs and an OPS of 1.221. At the state tourney, he hit .465 (5-11) with six RBIs and three runs with a HR and two triples. On the mound, Lomavita was 3-2 with a 2.79 ERA. In 40 innings, he struck out 34, allowed 42 hits and walked 24.
Kaipo Haole, Baldwin, U, Sr.
Haole was brilliant on the mound in MIL play, and also had a solid season at third base. Haole took a bit of a hit from Waiakea in the state tourney, but gritted out a quarterfinal win. Haole finished the season 6-0 with a 1.22 ERA. In 34 innings, he struck out 42, walked just four and allowed only 12 hits.