By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tai Atkins was a triple threat as a dominant pitcher, slashing leadoff hitter, and inspirational leader for Kamehameha, which continued its reign as the greatest BIIF-title collecting dynasty going.
The Warriors have won eight straight BIIF Division II championships. The softball team has done the same thing, but baseball holds the trump card of having won a state title.
Atkins was a large part of that run and ended his career as a four-time BIIF champion and two-time player of the year, in a vote by the league’s coaches, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today.
“It’s always an honor to be recognized with an award such as this. Being my second time, it is refreshing to know I was able to complete two of my four years with this prestigious award,” said Atkins, who was the POY in 2017. “I am thankful for all the many years of hard work and support from everyone.”
Atkins batted .364 and went 8-0 with a 0.84 ERA in 41 2 /3 innings. He allowed just 18 hits and six walks and struck out 78.
He is joined on the first team with four teammates: Bula Ahuna (.388 batting average), Rydge Ishii (.450), Zakaia Michaels (.440/5-1, 0.48 ERA) and Braeden Coloma (.404).
The other members are Konawaena’s Tevin Canda and Jake Basque and Honokaa’s Canen Perreira.
Atkins also led by example and was determined to maintain the team’s blue-collar culture.
“As it was my senior year, it was go big or go home. I had to work to keep my place,” he said. “One small goal from this season was to always finish first when we did our conditioning. I believed that this small goal will create a habit that would carry on for our success.
“I gotta give thanks to Zakaia. He was often the target I chose to stay ahead of. He pushed me harder than I expected, and I am grateful to have spent some years playing with him.”
Kamehameha finished tied for third at the state tournament, where he wielded an unbeatable lightsaber. He was 3-0 with a 0.65 ERA over 21 2/3 innings. He whiffed 43 and surrendered just nine hits and five walks.
Despite his dominance, Atkins wasn’t selected in the Major League Baseball draft. He wasn’t surprised. He’s 5 feet 10 and 165 pounds. He has already self-scouted himself.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get drafted out of high school. I have compared myself to pitchers before me like Kodi Medeiros, and I was nowhere close to their physicality,” Atkins said. “However, my desire to get drafted hasn’t gotten dim. It has lit a hotter flame in order to get stronger.”
Like Medeiros, who was drafted in the first round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014, Atkins throws from a similar arm slot. Instead of sitting on long bus rides, he has the next three years to get bigger and better.
He’ll play summer ball in Kansas, set up by Hawaii, where he’ll soon join former teammates Daylen Calicdan and DallasJ Duarte.
The Rainbow Warriors will have a strong BIIF influence. Recent Waiakea graduate Stone Miyao is in the same recruiting class as Atkins, and Waiakea senior-to-be Safea Mauai committed to UH.
“I am excited to play with my former teammates again. I am looking forward to push through my limits and do my part in doing what Dallas and Daylen have done, making the Big Island proud,” said Atkins, who pointed to his mom Cheri as the candle in his life.
“She has instilled values in me that have shaped me to be hard-working and humble, things I can take with me and apply in both my game and future.”
Bula Ahuna Kamehameha 12 INF
Rydge Ishii Kamehameha 11 INF
Zakaia Michaels Kamehameha 11 INF
Tevin Canda Konawaena 12 INF
Canen Perreira Honokaa 12 INF
Tai Atkins Kamehameha 12 OF
Braeden Coloma Kamehameha 12 OF
Jake Basque Konawaena 12 OF
Tai Atkins Kamehameha 12 P
Zakaia Michaels Kamehameha 11 P
Player of the Year
Tai Atkins, Kamehameha
Coach of the Year
Andy Correa, Kamehameha
Kamehameha: Bryce Furuli, Kalia Agustin, La’a Asuncion
Konawaena: Boaz Ayers, Bronson Rivera, Kanai Rivera, Elisha Martin
Hawaii Prep: Skyler Roque-Sunahara, Sheldon Aribal
Honokaa: Chad Yanagisawa, Zavier Ugalde, Justin Brech
Ka’u: Nalu Satkofski