It’s an annual baton passing at Kamehameha, where seniors take on leadership roles and guide the way to another BIIF Division II title.
It’s worked for six years straight, and it’s DallasJ Duarte’s turn along with six other seniors, including pitchers Kyran Kai and Justyce Ishii, and outfielders Kekona Naipo-Arsiga and Kaynen Tolentino, and infielder Kalai Klask-Hoopii.
Each played a part in the Warriors’ 9-3 win over Konawaena in the first day of the 25th annual Stanley Costales Sr. Memorial Baseball Tournament on Thursday at rain-soaked Wong Stadium.
Duarte batted 2 for 3 with two RBIs, Naipo-Arsiga went 2 for 4 with an RBI, Tolentino had an RBI, and Klask-Hoopii had a walk and run scored.
Sophomore right-hander Kalani Marquez started and earned the win with four innings of three-run ball. Then the best bullpen in the BIIF took over. Ishii had two goose egg frames, and Kai fired a scoreless inning.
Junior third baseman Laa Asuncion had a productive day. He went 3 for 4 with two RBIs. Marquez batted 2 for 2 and scored a run.
Duarte, who signed with Hawaii in November, has changed his body with a commitment in the weight room. He’s 5 feet 8 and a muscular 165 pounds, an increase of 25 pounds since he was a freshman.
“It’s a blessing. My mom (Michelle Duarte) gets to watch me (on Spectrum OC16), and my family gets to watch me,” he said. “And I’m still playing at home.”
Duarte and junior left-hander Tai Atkins may be UH teammates someday unless either or both get drafted and sign to turn pro. Atkins gave a verbal commitment as a sophomore.
But for the time being, Duarte is focused on sharpening team unity.
“We’ve got underclassmen who are leaders,” he said. “It’s not only about the seniors. We want to get everybody involved. Everybody has a job on the team.”
Duarte’s job is to spark the offense as the leadoff hitter, handle the pitching staff and neutralize the other team’s running game with his strong arm.
“DallasJ has to take charge behind the plate, and it’s always nice to have speed and experience at the top of the batting order,” Kamehameha coach Andy Correa said.
Duarte also has a good habit of hitting his pitch and consistently stinging balls. Kai, also a right fielder and No. 2 hitter, has an eagle eye. He drew two walks against the Wildcats.
No. 3 batter Bula Ahuna, a junior first baseman, cleanup hitter Asuncion, and center fielder Naipo-Arsiga provide punch in the middle of the lineup.
Tolentino is the No. 6 hitter, and sophomore Rydge Ishii bats seventh as the designated hitter in place of shortstop Kalia Agustin.
“Our shortstop is only a sophomore, and he did a lot of good things at the junior varsity level last year,” Correa said. “We’ve got a lot of depth. The young guys could push the starters for playing time.”
Last year at the HHSAA Division II tournament, the young guys stepped up. Marquez and Zakaia Michaels pitched as freshmen on Oahu and handled themselves quite well.
Marquez got a no-decision in three innings of one-run ball in an 11-1 win over Hawaii Prep for third place. Michaels fired 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a 2-1 10-inning loss to Kauai in the semifinals.
Against Konawaena, Marquez loaded the bases with one out in the third, and the second time through the lineup No. 2 hitter AJ Allred planted a three-run double to left field.
A little later, he got a good look at the art of throwing cold water on brushfires — pitching smart when in trouble.
In the fifth, Allred displayed his hit-to-all-fields approach when he greased a triple to the right-center gap off Justyce Ishii, who relies on guile rather than velocity.
The senior right-hander and older brother of Rydge Ishii threw a low fastball, got a groundout and avoided that manini scoring threat.
It was a nice piece of work for Justyce Ishii, who last summer was the Nobu Yamauchi RBI Senior team’s winning pitcher in the World Series championship.
Last year at states, he was a dependable swingman. In the semifinals against Kauai, Justyce Ishii got the start and threw three innings of one-run ball. His brother started in right field and went 0 for 3.
It’s likely the last year the brothers will be playing together, and for them it’s back-and-forth baton passing. Like any good sibling rivalry, they push each other.
“We’ve never played with each other growing up because we’re two years apart,” Justyce said. “But it’s really good motivation. He keeps me working hard.
“Sometimes, when we face off at practice, he’ll get the best of me, and sometimes, I’ll get the best of him.”
Someday, it’ll be Rydge Ishii’s turn to do the same.