Just three weeks into Kahi Ka’anoi’s tenure as Kamehameha baseball coach, the Warriors opened the ILH season in the midst of a steep learning curve.
But the schedule goes on and after a turbulent preseason, the Warriors absorbed a 14-5 loss to No. 3 Mid-Pacific to begin the league schedule on Wednesday at Goeas Field in Hawaii Kai.
The Warriors gave up a run in the first and a two-out error in the second helped fuel MPI’s five-run outburst with Owls catcher Kyle Layugan delivering a three-run homer. Jet Uechi added a solo homer in the sixth to contributed to MPI’s 16-hit attack.
Kamehameha showed some offensive spark late in the game with two runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth on Vince Venenciano’s homer to left and the ILH opener was part of the growth process for the Warriors and the revamped coaching stafff.
“I think were all kind of learning each other,” Ka’anoi said after his ILH debut. “It’s been a whirlwind experience you could say. But it’s something I look forward to every day and I’m looking forward to the future.
“We made some good adjustments toward the end of the game. It’s something we can continue to work on and grow with. … We have a lot to work on and just have to keep plugging away.”
Ka’anoi, a former Kamehameha ace who was drafted in the seventh round by the Kansas City Royals in 2000, previously served on Kamehameha’s varsity and JV staffs under former coach Vern Ramie. But he was focused on coaching his kids’ Little League and Cal Ripken teams when the Warrirors’ head coaching position stunningly opened up in late January.
The program was rocked when head coach Thomas Perkins and the rest of the varsity and junior varsity coaching staffs were let go two days before the start of tryouts. The changes also wiped out a preseason trip to California.
Ka’anoi decided to enter his name for consideration and was named the interim head coach on Feb. 7.
“I love this program,” he said. “It’s done a lot for me in my life and my family and i just want to be here and give back as much as I can and help the boys reach their full potential. That’s what I’m here for.
“They have a great attitude. It’s been tough for them. They didn’t get to go on a trip, new coach. … A lot of new players too. A lot of them weren’t starters on the varsity last year, so a lot of them are trying to get used to each other and playing together.”
Ka’anoi said he had close to 60 players on the field for tryouts for his first few practices before paring the varsity roster down to 24. The condensed practice schedule and a few rain-outs limited the Warriors to four preseason games before facing the Owls on Wednesday.
“We really haven’t gotten to play that much and I haven’t really gotten to see my boys play a lot. That’s probably the toughest part,” said Ka’anoi, who added that he’d seen his pitchers under game action “two or three times at most.”
“But no excuses. They’ve been practicing. We just have to work on those finer details and play a little better.”
Kaanoi pointed to the Warriors’ struggles throwing their offspeed pitches for strikes as a factor in Wednesday’s loss.
“I felt like they were just sitting on the fastball. They put some good swings on it and you have to give them credit,” he said.