By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Armed with good command and better composure, Hawaii Prep pitcher DJ Sekiya is turning into a giant killer, taking down his second top Division I team within a week, and spinning another complete-game gem.
The sophomore left-hander tossed a five-hitter and the Ka Makani upset Waiakea 3-2 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation baseball game Saturday at the Warriors field.
Sekiya allowed two runs in the second inning on back-to-back RBI basehits by Caleb Fields-Freitas and Ryder Oshiro. Then he painted corners, didn’t groove anything down the middle, and shut down the Warriors (0-1 BIIF, 1-1 overall), the defending Division I state and BIIF champion.
Last week, Sekiya threw a five-inning TKO 13-0 three-hitter against Hilo, which placed third last season at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state tournament.
“I felt everything was working, mainly my offspeed stuff, my changeup and curveball,” said Sekiya, who pitched a few innings in relief last year. “I mixed my speeds and kept them off-balanced. I wasn’t looking to shut them down. I wanted to go out there and get them to swing and hit my pitch. It definitely gives me a lot of confidence. Hopefully, I can take that to the rest of the games.
“It’s definitely a shock to beat Waiakea. It feels great. It’s my top baseball moment. My goal is to work on all my pitches, gain more velocity, hit my spots and do the best for my team.”
Sekiya grew up playing baseball in Kealakekua, starting from T-ball. He went to Konawaena middle school, and entered HPA as a freshman, already accustomed to waking up at 5:30 a.m. to catch the bus to school.
He doesn’t play any other sports. But he was in the school’s performing arts production of “Sound of Music.” He was one of the children and had a singing part, so stage fright or runners on base is not an issue.
“He’s got really good composure, he’s mentally tough and he keeps his cool,” HPA coach Jordan Hayslip said. “We liked what we saw from him last year. He’s left-handed with good control and a good variety of pitches.”
Waiakea bares little resemblance to last year’s club that went 20-0. Only shortstop Kean Wong (0 for 3), center fielder Kodi Medeiros (2 for 3) and left fielder Alika Guillermo (0 for 2) are returning starters. Wong, Guillermo and right fielder Andy Filoteo III (0 for 2) are the senior starters.
Medeiros is still nursing his arm into pitching shape. Junior right-hander Chase Komatsu started and had a rough second inning, walking the bases full, hitting Kaimi Stevens to force in a run, and walking Sekiya to force in another.
Bryce Felipe replaced him, got leadoff hitter Koa Ellis to fly out to extinguish the bases-loaded brush fire, and provided 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Guillermo pitched two innings, but gave up an unearned run in the seventh and took the loss.
In the seventh, Li‘i Purdy reached on an infield single, took second on Kalan Camero’s sacrifice bunt, and didn’t stop running after a throwing error went into left field. HPA led 3-2 and Waiakea had three outs left.
Sekiya doesn’t throw hard, but pitches smart, employing the philosophy of a judo artist, letting the Warriors swing at slow stuff and wobble on their front foot, while tripping over themselves. He’s not overpowering (one strikeout), but he doesn’t beat himself either (one walk).
“We didn’t make adjustments that we needed to make,” Waiakea coach Kevin Yee said. “We didn’t have a very good approach. DJ threw a hell of a game. That’s all he had to do was throw it around the plate and we’d swing at it. It looked so good, we’d swing at a couple of pitches out of the zone.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Sekiya gave third baseman Ian Rice infield practice, getting three straight ground balls against Waiakea’s nos. 5-6-7 hitters, Fields-Freitas, Oshiro and Taylor Mondina, and three young cornerstones.
Fields-Freitas and Oshiro each finished 1 for 3 with an RBI. First baseman Fields-Freitas and third baseman Mondina (0 for 3) are freshmen and designated hitter Oshiro is a sophomore as are Felipe and second baseman Trevor Shimokusu (0 for 3).
“We’re a very different team from last year,” Yee said. “We’ve got seven seniors and juniors and 16 underclassmen. The team chemistry is going to take some time. We’ve just got to get everybody on the same page, and understand that when you come to practice you have to work every day to get better.”
Meanwhile, HPA (2-0 BIIF, 3-0 overall) has the best of both worlds. There are five returning starters (Rice, shortstop Ellis, catcher Mike Nakahara, first baseman Kama DeSilva and outfielder Kalan Camero) and lots of youth sprinkled throughout the lineup.
No. 2 starting pitcher/second baseman Cyrus Iglis, Ellis and Sekiya are sophomores. Rice, Nakahara, outfielder Purdy, and Camero are juniors. Only outfielder Stevens and DeSilva are seniors.
The Ka Makani didn’t qualify for the Division II state tournament last season, falling to Konawaena 1-0 in the BIIF semifinals. But they advanced the previous four seasons. The best way to get back is to rely on baseball’s best one-two punch.
“We have good pitching and defense. That was key today, and we had that through all three BIIF games,” Hayslip said. “I like our team’s chemistry. All the guys are friends. It’s always fun on the bus and in the dugout. We’ve got a good group of guys.”
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