Hilo was well-balanced for a BIIF championship run, hoping to break the eight-year tradition of title swapping.
The coronavirus pandemic canceled the baseball season and the answer to the question: Would Waiakea continue to win in even-numbered years?
Despite having two of the state’s best sluggers in Kalai Rosario and Safea Villaruz-Mauai, the Vikings swept the Warriors last season in the best-of-three series for the BIIF Division I title.
“This year we had a good team to repeat as BIIF champs,” Hilo coach Baba Lancaster said. “We had everything, balance, hitting, and pitching. I had more pitchers this year than last year.
“Unfortunately the season is over, and I feel bad for our nine seniors.”
Hilo’s seniors are shortstop Maui Ahuna, ace Logan Wilson, outfielders Dayson Moses and Titus Sato, catcher Paul Antony, Kahiau Vincent, Charles Barclay, Jayger Ganigan, and Ryne Crivello.
The coronavirus pandemic also wiped out the All-BIIF baseball teams.
Last year, Ahuna was voted the BIIF player of the year in a race that had Rosario and Villaruz-Mauai breathing down his neck.
Ahuna, who committed to Kansas, was likely to repeat his role as a line-drive hitting, smooth-fielding shortstop and leader.
“That boy is so talented,” Lancaster said. “I could imagine him doing the same thing as last year. He was working so hard this year.
“The scouts loved him. They were at our tournament and at Maui. They were highly looking at him.”
Major League Baseball has yet to announce if the 40-round draft will be cut to either five or 10 rounds.
Lancaster figured Rosario and Villaruz-Mauai wouldn’t fatten their stats against the Vikings.
The game plan sounded simple enough. Don’t let anyone get on before them and don’t throw anything hittable down the middle of the plate.
“It would have been the same as last year,” Lancaster said. “Pitch around them and I told the pitchers make them hit your pitch, not theirs. We wanted to make everyone else beat us, not them.”
It’s unknown now if the Warriors could have neutralized that pitching strategy.
They were rebuilding their staff under first-year coach Chris Honda, who has a track record of developing youngsters.
And that will be the key for the 2021 season: Who develops their talent best to start a new tradition of winning BIIF titles.
Kamehameha has no such issues winning titles. The Warriors have won the last eight BIIF Division II titles.
They looked poised to add another title, returning the type of tough pitching that has anchored the staff.
The Warriors returned their two aces who both committed to college in Kalani Marques, Hawaii; and Zakaia Michael, Hawaii Pacific.
Kamehameha had extra depth with junior catcher Hanalei Warren, who could also pitch.
Rydge Ishii, who signed with Big Bend, would have been a force in the lineup along with Marquez, Michaels, and Warren.
“It’s unfortunate for all the seniors around the island,” coach Andy Correa said. “A lot of guys in baseball put in a lot of hard work for two or three years and wait for their chance to play. It’s unfortunate that they won’t have that opportunity to show what they can do.”
Konawaena, under new coach Aaron Mori, and Hawaii Prep, under new coach Jeremy Lustik, could have made a run with their key players in Bronson Rivera and Michael Hughes, respectively. Rivera is a junior shortstop and Hughes a senior pitcher/outfielder who signed with UH-Manoa.
“We were going to be kind of a young team,” Correa said. “Kona was supposed to be good this year, and HPA is always pretty good and they had that UH commit.”
It’s back to the drawing board and working with the younger players in the program and developing them.
“We’ll be kind of young next year,” Correa said. “We’ll have to wait and see. We’ve got good kids coming in. They always work hard and apply what we do in the program. But you don’t know what to expect.”