Kamehameha coach Andy Correa has always enjoyed his role as a farm director, molding new players to replace graduated starters.
He’s had a lot of practice over the last two seasons, losing seven starters in each year.
This season will be a bit different as the Warriors chase their ninth consecutive BIIF Division II championship.They are without the services of Tai Atkins, the school’s most dominant pitcher, who’s now at UH-Manoa.
They’ve still got a strong senior core with pitcher/second baseman Zakaia Michaels, pitcher/outfielder Kalani Marquez, and pitcher/third baseman Rydge Ishii. Michaels is headed to Hawaii Pacific, Marquez to Hawaii and Ishii to Big Bend, a community college in Washington.
When the Warriors earn scholarships, that’s an incentive for the younger players to keep working hard to follow in their footsteps.
Marquez continues a BIIF-to-Manoa pipeline, where he’ll join Hawaii Prep’s Michael Hughes next year.
Senior shortstop Kalia Agustin is the only other returning starter.
“We’re young and inexperienced,” Correa said. “We’re trying to find our way.”
Kamehameha looked pretty sharp with a 6-0 win over Kealakehe at the Stanley Costales Baseball Tournament on Friday at Wong Stadium.
Hanalei Warren pitched six innings for the win. He’ll start at catcher and be counted on as a bullpen arm.
“Hanalei works hard,” Correa said. “Z (Michaels), Hanalei and Kalia have played together all their lives growing up. They are three anchors and are example of what we like to see. They’re hard-working, willing to sacrifice for the team, and all can play multi-positions.”
It doesn’t matter to the Warriors where their pitchers come from. If a catcher can gun down a runner at second base and a shortstop can make a throw from the hole, they’re candidates for the bullpen.
Keaton McCallum, a senior, starts at first base. He learned that patience is a virtue, sitting behind Bula Ahuna the last three years.
Left field is an open audition. Marquez will likely land in center, and senior Kaizen Kapuni-Lankford will start in right.
Sophomore designated hitter Jonah Reich showed his potential with a solo homer against Waiakea on Thursday.
“He’s got plenty of ability and raw talent,” Correa said. “We want to mold him to play an infield corner and pitch.”
The pitching depth took a hit when junior Brock Malani suffered a knee injury and was lost for the season.
Salvatore Martino, who went five innings in a 9-5 loss to Waiakea, is a young ace in training.
“He throws strikes and is developing four different pitches,” Correa said of the sophomore. “He’s trying to get command of them.”
Four freshmen, Kyden Nakamura, Cross Pola, Dylan Hansen, and Journey Leialoha, made the team, and each will get a chance to gain experience.
Nakamura pitched a scoreless seventh against the Waveriders. It was an up and down adventure. He struck out two and stranded two runners.
“The young guys are going to have a chance to throw,” Correa said. “We’re going to try everybody. The key is guys are willing to do anything to help the team.”
Kapuni-Lankford is another warrior who had to wait for his time.
“His commitment to the program is finally being rewarded with playing time,” Correa said. “He works hard and hopefully he develops into a solid hitter and pitcher.”
That’s the thing about the Warriors. They keep developing good players, and there’s been no shortage of pitchers, a reason for their run of titles.