BIIF baseball: HPA in good hands with versatile pitching staff

  • RICK WINTERS/West Hawaii Today Finn Richmond is one of many strong two-way players Hawaii Prep can rely upon.

Hawaii Prep is defined by its versatility, especially with two-way players Jonah Hurney, Finn Richmond, Sheldon Aribal, and Michael Hughes, who all set the tone on the pitching mound and at the plate.

Hurney and Richmond are seniors while Aribal is a junior and Hughes only a sophomore. That nucleus will help Ka Makani challenge for an HHSAA Division II state berth again.

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The 25th annual Stanley Costales Sr. Memorial Baseball Tournament is a good test for coach Jordan Hayslip’s Ka Makani who are missing Hurney, Hughes, and third baseman Ry Bleckel. They just finished at the state basketball tourney on Oahu.

Down by seven runs, HPA rallied for six runs in the bottom of the seventh, but Kealakehe prevailed 9-8 on Friday at the Walter Victor complex, where the two teams played under raindrops.

Aribal slugged a three-run double to highlight the six-run comeback charge. Richmond pitched four innings and allowed three runs in the loss. He batted 1 for 2 with an RBI.

Last year, the duo helped HPA beat Konawaena 4-2 in Game 3 of the BIIF Division II semifinal series to secure its first state berth since 2014.

Aribal pitched a seven-hitter, and Richmond cranked a two-run double.

In 2014, the league introduced the best-of-three series for the semifinals and championship to help teams prepare for the HHSAA state tournament.

Last season marked the first year of the mandated pitch count by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

It’s vital that BIIF teams have enough arms and pitchers who can throw strikes. And for HPA, it’s equally important to have a fair amount of southpaws to neutralize Konawaena’s two potent left-handed bats in Kolu Alani and Stevie Texeira.

Ka Makani have that arsenal with Hurney and Hughes, a pair of contrasting left-handers.

“Jonah is so crafty, and Michael has a power arm,” said Richmond, who also plays shortstop. “Last year was fun. I’ve never been to states. I was a freshman at Parker, and the last two years we lost to Konawaena.”

Kamehameha, the six-time defending BIIF champion, won’t be moved off the mountaintop for a while. The Warriors feature the state’s top pitcher in junior Tai Atkins and two promising sophomores in Kalani Marquez and Zakaia Michaels.

Marquez and Michaels will turn into nightmares for the rest of the league when they grow into their bodies. The same can be said of Richmond when he pitches on the collegiate level.

Richmond is 6 feet 3 with a lanky 180-pound frame. He’s got long, loose and quick arm-action and his curveball has sharp bite. When he adds muscle, the right-hander’s velocity will likely spike from the low 80s-mph he’s hitting now.

“He’s the captain of the team,” Ka Makani coach Jordan Hayslip said of Richmond. “He’s really experienced, a great leader and a good hitter. The guys look up to him, and he brings a confidence to the team.”

As a hitter, Richmond has a consistent and tight swing for a guy with long arms. At shortstop, he gets himself into good fielding position with his footwork. And he has enough arm to make tough throws.

He’s a two-for-one deal as a college recruit, able to pitch and hit. Richmond was being scouted by a Southwestern Oregon Community College assistant on Friday.

The two hooked up on the fieldlevel app, and the Lakers assistant happened to be in Hawaii during the Costales tourney. Richmond is waiting for a scholarship offer.

Richmond is a bit of a late bloomer. He started playing Little League as a 12-year-old in Waimea. But he credits his progress to his dad, Tom Richmond, a horse farrier. If a horse needs trimming and balancing of hooves and placing of shoes on hooves, he’s the one people call.

“He’s the one who’s pushed me and supports me,” Richmond said. “He played ball in California, and he’s taught me everything I know.”

With Richmond back at shortstop and Bleckel at third, the other returning infielder is Skyler Roque-Sunahara at second. Ikaika Apilado takes over at catcher and Nalu Shimizu at first.

The outfield/designated hitter spot will be filled by Hurney, Hughes, Aribal and Daniel Groves.

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Richmond plans to follow the lead of graduated catcher Braden Kojima, who’s playing soccer at Pacific University.

“He was a great leader. He would help the young guys,” Richmond said. “I’m trying to do the same and set a great example.”

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