Obviously, Hawaii Prep baseball coach Jordan Hayslip would be more than thrilled if Ka Makani batted around in the first inning today when they open their Big Island Interscholastic Federation season at Keaau.
But as HPA learned last year, it’s not how you start, but how you finish. Ka Makani came out like world-beaters in 2013 in beating a pair of Division I heavyweights. After thumping Hilo at home, HPA went on the road and won at Waiakea. Then Hayslip remembers a “funny” thing happening on the way to the Division II tournament.
“I don’t know why,” Hayslip said, “but we peaked too early.
“This year we just want to play through the highs and lows.”
Ka Makani bagged its lone Division II BIIF title in 2009 and made four consecutive appearances at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament before missing out the last two seasons behind Kamehameha and Konawaena.
“We’re competitive every year,” Hayslip said, “it’s just about getting over the hump.”
Trying to improve on last season’s 7-4 finish, HPA returns an experienced roster with at least three dependable pitchers. Juniors DJ Sekiya and Cyrus Inglis carried much of the load last season, while Hayslip said junior Koa Ellis pitched well in the preseason. Ka Makani also will welcome back senior Ryan Jarvill to the mound.
“Cyrus hasn’t thrown for us much (in the preseason),” Hayslip said, “but he’s a very smart pitcher who understands the game and mixing speeds.”
That’s also an apt description of Sekiya, a left-hander who has gained some speed on his fastball but will still try to use his craftiness to fool hitters.
The pitching depth could come in handy when doubleheaders are held during the best-of-three BIIF semifinals, but as Hayslip pointed out, “Konawaena and Kamehameha have a lot of good pitching, too.”
Ellis was also Hayslip’s quarterback on the football team last season, and when he’s not pitching he’ll play shortstop alongside second baseman Braden Kojima, who won the starting job as a freshman. Sekiya and Inglis will see time in the outfield and first base, and the rest of the starting lineup will be filled by four seasoned seniors.
Primed to pack punch in the middle of the lineup are third baseman Ian Rice and catcher Mike Nakahara, while Lii Purdy will bat near the top of the order and play center field.
Outfielder Kalan Camero suffered a frightening concussion on the basketball court Feb. 14, and after sitting out Ka Makani’s state title run in Honolulu he’s ready to return to action on the diamond.
A new face to the baseball team is one very familiar to would-be BIIF tacklers on the football field: Bobby Lum, a senior who likely will be used off the bench.
“He played baseball when he was younger, and he’ll be a great addition to the outfield,” Hayslip said.