The present is a gift for the Leilehua Mules, who are making the most of it with their young softball squad.
The Mules are 2-1-1 in the rugged Oahu Interscholastic Association West Division. On Friday night, Leilehua meets West co-leader Campbell in a classic matchup. The shortened season — no playoffs, no state tournament — means coach Wendell Au has been busy scheduling exhibition games, too. In addition to their four OIA West games, Leilehua has played Moanalua and Kaiser in “friendlies.” Maryknoll is now on the slate, too.
That will give the Mules 13 total games by the end of the season next week.
“This season is kind of surreal. We have some friendlies, some scrimmages and try to keep the intensity of a real game. We try to play both sides, have free subs and get everybody incorporated into it,” Au said on Tuesday. “It’s almost as if we had our (double) round robin. My plan was to have at least 12 games just to give my seniors a feel, not to lose competitive intensity, and keep it as normal as possible.”
That included getting new uniforms. Anything it took to preserve the foundation of a softball experience in the green and gold.
“Hats off to my coaching staff. They have that same feel,” said Au, who would actually like to have even more games.
That, however, would stretch energy and limitations beyond capacity.
“Honestly, if we could, we would, but I have to make sure our safety person and our trainers are there,” he said. “There’s a lot of moving parts. Liability forms if we’re traveling without a school bus.”
The Mules will take it. Other programs have done the same with preseason and in-season exhibitions. For now, their leaders, including shortstop Lovey Kepaa, are making the most of the limited regular season.
Coach Au shared his feedback on this year’s Mules.
>> Lovey Kepaa, SS/P, Sr.
“She’s mostly at shortstop, and our secondary pitcher. She will be a missed leader after she graduates.”
Kepaa will play at Yavapai College (Ariz.)
“That kid is special. Has it together in softball, school, the total package,” he said. “She has selflessness, and she is compassionate and goal oriented.”
>> Torie Au, 2B/SS, Jr.
“That’s my daughter. Hard worker. Solid player. Got some room to grow, but she has a bright future,” Au said. “That must sound like a typical dad answer. She has an uplifting personality, is outgoing and leads by example.”
>> Xaniah Talo, P/1B, Jr.
“She’s our ace pitcher. She’s growing into that rule. Bright future in that circle. She has all the tools. We just have to refine it,” Au said. “Xaniah keeps everyone together. She is motivational.”
>> Kalia Kekahuna-Fernandez, C/U, Jr.
Kekahuna-Fernandez is a newcomer, but already a leader.
“Definitely, right now, one of our leaders. Being behind the dish as a catcher. Couldn’t ask for a better replacement in Gigi Araki’s departure. She’s taken charge and done her part defensively and offensively,” Au said. “We enjoy her voice, humor and energy.”
>> Leihulu Umiamaka, OF, Sr.
“She has a real quirky personality. She has her own reaction to things,” Au said.
>> Daysha Paracuelles, OF, Jr.
“She is very reliable. A steady outfielder. A future cornerstone of our program, to lead us into the next few years. She can be that person if she really applies it,” Au said.
>> Trinity Somera, U, Jr.
“Awesome personality. The spark plug of our team. She brings that cheerfulness. Great natural athlete, able to play so many positions,” Au said.
>> Kalia Cabico, OF, Jr.
“Hard worker. Scrappy player. Wiling to step up at any time,” he said.
>> Jerine Nartatez, OF, Jr.
“That’s our comeback player right there. She’s been there, right at the door step and finally busted through. I’m proud of her. She got the starting role and she’s building from there. Bright future for her,” Au said.
>> Emi Yamamoto, OF, Jr.
“Very intelligent, scrappy player. She’s right there on the cusp. She started last week. She’s hard working and always there,” he said.
>> Kaylee Lapenia, OF, Jr.
“Kaylee is our go-to kid. Even if she’s not on the field, she’s always in tune with the game. Engaged,” Au said.
>> Erika Treusch, P, So.
“Young up-and-coming pitcher. Through hard work, putting in that time, she’s going to get stronger and better each year,” Au said.
>> Tetiare Suivaaia, 3B, Fr.
“Bright future. This is the first year we ever got to work with her. The next year or so, with a regular season, she’s a strong girl. Big. She’s going to fit that power rule,” Au said.
>> Kanani Kekahuna-Fernandez 3B,P 10
“This is going to be our first year with us. She’s a big stick. She’s our starting third baseman. Great hitting style and technique. She’s like Gigi Araki. Not quite as fast, but she’s something,” Au said.
>> Dynastee Huihui, 1B/3B, So.
“She’s a utility player. She can play either corner and she can play the outfield,” Au said. “She is an offensive weapon. She has a good combination of speed and power.”
>> Kaelee Cowles, OF, Jr.
“She definitely brings a spirit to the team,” Au said. “She keeps the team engaged. I call her DJ Kaylee because she plays our in-between music. She brings good life to the team.”
>> Merelynn Ursua, OF, Fr.
“With a little more time, she’s kind of like Kai Pinera, but she doesn’t have that confidence yet. She’s fast. She can fly. I can see her doing special things for the program,” he said.
>> Isabella Ramson, OF, Fr.
“Another freshman that’s going to develop her power. She’ll probably end up being an outfielder, but her offensive potential is going to be there,” Au said.
>> Rheyna Nartatez, OF, Fr.
“Rheyna is a young player with good potential, and she really puts in that work. That reload of freshmen is going to be our future for the next three years,” Au said.
Not having a junior varsity team is not ideal, but it works this way, too.
“If we had a JV, I still would’ve brought them up to varsity. The whole reason why I want them around, players like Lovey, getting mentorship from those seniors,” Au said.