During the drudgery of the pandemic, with nothing open and virtually everything off limits, DJ Akiyama’s refuge was hiding in plain sight.
The batting cage was his sanctuary. Thousands of residents drive by it every day in Aiea. They probably missed the 6-foot hitman taking his cuts, hour after hour, day after day.
“It’s pretty much a therapy thing,” Akiyama said after going 3-for-3 with three RBIs in Aiea’s 8-6 come-from-behind win over Campbell on Friday afternoon. “It’s just I follow one simple thing. I hit the ball hard and try to hit the ball up the middle.”
Simple, of course, is rarely easy. Akiyama is one of only three seniors on the Aiea roster. Somehow, they’ve made the most of a short preseason and come up with a 4-1 regular-season record in the rough OIA West. One of those wins was over Mililani on Wednesday. The two teams share first place in the standings. Kapolei, which beat Aiea in the season opener, is 3-1.
Of Aiea’s four pitchers on Friday, two are juniors and two are freshmen.
Left-hander Haku Asing went three innings with his start, striking out six with a lethal, elite curve ball.
“It’s really his first good outing. He’s been hurt all this time (elbow), but he did well,” assistant coach Wes Yoshida said of the junior. “We actually go for pitch count. We go for 50, he went a little over 50, but he did pretty well.”
He was generally in command with only one walk issued and two hits allowed, but two balks were gifted from Asing to the Sabers. One of those miscues led directly to a Campbell run as a baserunner came home from third base.
After Asing, freshman Dane Valenciano, freshman Aidan Yoshida and junior Raine Yoshida carried the baton.
“We went from speed to a little off-speed to real off-speed, and we closed with Raine Yoshida, which is medium speed,” Wes Yoshida said. “Raine has pretty good control with the ball.”
Raine Yoshida got the win and also went 2-for-3 at the plate with and RBI and run scored. He also set down a key sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning that led to an Aiea run. They may be young, but Na Alii executed with the bat all game long. One run came home on a sacrifice fly. Another came home on a groundout.
It starts with seniors like Akiyama setting the tone.
“DJ is probably our No. 1 stud. Consistent player, shortstop,” Yoshida said. “He works hard. DJ’s a hard worker. He comes from a baseball family.”
With just two games left in an abbreviated season, Akiyama is as even-keeled as any of Na Alii.
“We’re looking forward to all the other teams,” he said. “We’re hoping to try our best.”
Aiea will visit Leilehua on Wednesday and host Moanalua next Saturday. Campbell will entertain Kapolei on Wednesday and host Leilehua next Saturday.
(See the game story in Saturday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.)
Aiea (4-1) 201 011 3 — 8 11 0
Campbell (1-4-1) 002 040 0 — 6 8 2
Haku Asing, Dane Valenciano (4), Aidan Yoshida (5), Raine Yoshida (7) and Reigen Komugata. La‘akea Anders, Dallas Alapai (5), Reef Rentiquiano (6) and Jayden Flores. W—R. Yoshida. L—Rentiquiano.
Leading hitters—Aiea: R. Yoshida 2-3, RBI, run; DJ Akiyama 3-3, triple, 3 RBIs, run, SF; Jordan Cezar 3-4, triple, 2 runs, SB. Campbell: Anders 2-4, double, 2 RBIs; Jayden Flores 2-4, run; Bresen Chang 2-3, double; Ty Stephens 1-3, RBI; Diego Tabata 1-2, 2 runs, SB, walk.