BIIF baseball: Waiakea boasts powerful duo, but needs to develop pitching

  • Waiakea’s Safea Villaruz-Mauai celebrates his third run during Thursday’s game against Kamehameha, played at Wong Stadium. Photo: Tim Wright

  • Waiakea’s Kala’i Rosario heads for homebase for an easy score during Thursday’s game against Kamehameha, played at Wong Stadium. Photo: Tim Wright

There’s no doubt that Waiakea has a powerful hitting duo with sluggers Safea Villaruz-Mauai and Kalai Rosario, a pair of MLB draft prospects who both signed Division I scholarships.

Villaruz-Mauai hit a pair of three-run homers and had six RBIs, and Rosario clubbed a solo homer in Waiakea’s 9-5 win over Kamehameha at the Stanley Costales Baseball Tournament on Thursday at Wong Stadium.

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“I’ve been working hard and feeling great,” Villaruz-Mauai said. “Great things happen when you make good contact.”

Villaruz-Mauai will head to Hawaii and Rosario will go to Cal Baptist. MLB scouts have been vague when talking about what round they may get drafted in. It’s likely scouts will start asking how much they’ll sign for in May, a month ahead of the draft to prepare their budgets.

But those are questions for another day. A more pressing issue is the state of Waiakea’s pitching staff.

The question for the Warriors is will they find enough pitching to challenge for a BIIF title.

All of Waiakea’s starters graduated from last season’s BIIF runner-up team. The three-day tourney is serving as an audition for job openings.

Waiakea coach Chris Honda said the coaching staff is still evaluating candidates for the rotation and bullpen. He’s got a 21-player roster and a lot of options.

“I’m happy with our performance,” Honda said. “The big thing is we played as a team and we helped each other out. The key to our success is playing as a team. We’re only as strong as our weakest link.”

Villaruz-Mauai is a returning starter at first base and Rosario in center field. Not only are they great sluggers, but they’re fundamental parts to the team chemistry.

“One strong point about Safea is he’s a great leader,” Honda said. “He’s got a great work ethic and he works hard every day. He and Rosario are great role models, and the younger players look up to them.

“They’re both humble and you can tell that they were brought up by good families. They’ve got a good support system.”

Cody Min was the starting catcher last year, but he started on the mound because of his pitching experience.

He started and got the win while senior William Crawford and junior Blaze Smith came on in relief to close the game.

Waiakea wiggled out of a bases-loaded, no out jam in the sixth inning.

Senior second baseman Teagan Tamiya is another returning starter and so is catcher Cody Kunimitsu, who started in the outfield last year and has the versatility to fill in at different spots.

“Teagan is a scrappy player,” Honda said. “He’s fundamentally sound. He’s a great QB of our defense up the middle.”

Braxton Cagampang pitched at the state tournament last year and drew starts as an outfielder.

Mason Hirata, a sophomore shortstop, looked solid in the field. One contender at third base is sophomore Kedren Kinzie, the brother of former Kamehameha standout Kolbie Kinzie.

“Mason has a bright future and he plays with confidence,” Honda said.

Kamehameha didn’t pitch either of its two senior aces, Zakaia Michaels, who played second, and Kalani Marquez, who didn’t play.

Sophomore Salvatore Martino started and took the loss. Sophomore left-hander Makana Mangus went the final two innings.

Kaizen Kapuni-Lankford slugged a solo homer, and Keahi Hisashima was the only one to pair hits for Kamehameha.

It’s likely that Villaruz-Mauai and Rosario don’t see a fastball down the middle during the BIIF season. If that’s the case, both have disciplined approaches. They each drew one walk apiece.

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Besides Honda knows waiting for a three-run homer is not the best strategy in the world.

“It’s about fundamentals, catch and throw,” he said. “And score runs any way we can.”

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