By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Pahoa softball coach Frank Degele has his lineup set, and he’s ready for his players to flash their improved leather in the field.
But he’s also as anxious as anyone to see if his pitching staff gives the defense the chance to make plays. All too often last season, Daggers’ pitchers failed to find the strike zone. As the walks piled up, so did the losses. As a result, Pahoa missed out on a trip to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament for the third consecutive season.
Degele’s got somewhat of a new plan this year.
He’s got four pitchers he wants to use, starting with Randi-Lee Berinobis. All of them — Sequoia Marks, Mackenzie Singleton and Tita Peleiholani are the others — will get their shot. Better yet, if everything goes right, Degele may use all four in some games.
“If we can get someone to throw good, throw strikes, we have four,” he said. “If we can get four to throw two innings, with the defense and the hitting power that I see in practice. We should be good.”
While Berinobis starts out as the No. 1 pitcher, Degele also would like to see the others step up so that he can use the junior at shortstop. Either way, Berinobis will bat cleanup in the middle of a lineup that Degele feels has the potential to provide some pop. Outfielders Ernel Oguma, Kayla Silva and third baseman Akisha Kansou follow in the Nos. 5-7 slots.
Nine players are back from a team that finished 3-13, losing to Konawaena 3-2 in the first round of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II playoffs. The Daggers open the season Saturday against the Wildcats in Kealakekua.
By design, Degele trimmed the roster down to his best 13 players in the preseason.
“I can put any girl in at any point,” he said.
Degele said most of the pitching issues last season were just a matter of nerves. Randi-Lee Berinobis got some time in the circle. She featured both slow-pitch and fast-pitch styles, and Degele wants her to use both again this season.
“A lot (of) us can hit. These girls can hit. We’re pretty good there,” Berinobis said. “We’re stronger than last year (in the field), much stronger. If we make a mistake, we just pick each other up. Teamwork.”
But then again, she agreed the Daggers must avoid those pesky bases on balls.
“Yeah, that’s a big key,” she said. “We can’t have walks. Be patient and throw the ball.”
Silva is the most versatile player in an outfield that also will include Erleen Oguma.
The top three hitters in the lineup figure to be first baseman Christine Diza, Ranchell Berinobis, who will see some time at shortstop when her sister is pitching, and second baseman Macey Mokuhalii.
Lauae Schweitzer-Treat has caught before but will take over as the starter behind the plate.
Before the recent drought, Pahoa had a run of three consecutive state appearances from 2007-09.
Degele said the first goal was qualifying for the six-team playoff in the new islandwide format. However, Randi-Lee Berinobis was ready to go one or two steps further.
“I have confidence and believe in my teammates,” she said as she looked at her coach with a smile. “We can go undefeated. I’m saying that. We want to go states this year.”