HANAPEPE — There was an abundance of hugs, back slapping, and big smiles as Mayor Derek Kawakami tossed out the first pitch to open the 49th Kauai Senior Softball season Saturday at the Hanapepe Stadium Softball complex.
The opening ceremonies featured two new teams to expand the league to 15 teams with more than 200 players from Hanalei to Kekaha. Joining Kawakami in the opening ceremonies were State House Reps. Jimmy Tokioka and Dee Morikawa.
County council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro and council member Arthur Brun were also out for the early morning ceremonies. Brun made sure to recognize and acknowledg the impeccable conditions of the playing field and park facilities. The softball diamond has significantly improved dugout, bleachers and playing surface.
In his remarks, the mayor took a moment to thank the wives, girlfriends, grandchildren and family members who support and help to carry on the weekend games allowing our seniors, for a moment, to be kids again.
League President Mike Curtis honored long-time league commissioner and coordinator Pat Baniaga for his years of leadership and service.
During the ceremony, the crowd cheered Norman Holt and the East Kauai Legends living up to their team name by capturing the 2018 State F Division Championship on Maui. Sia Salausa’s Keonimana Gents were celebrated for their 2018 League Championship. The Ohana Rebels finished in second place with the Lihue A’s in third place followed by the Rookies.
There was a pause in the festivities to honor and pay respect to three league members no longer with us. Prayer and silence were offered for Audie Bernardino who played with the Rookies and Ohana, Paul Parongao from West Kauai and Joseph Kauahi who played with Kuku’s Aces.
Standing in the middle of the infield for the team line up the league got their first introduction to Neil Zaslow’s Hana Hou and Tom Christy’s Solid Steel, the two additions to the league. They join the return of last year’s competition with Pat Baniaga’s Barteks, Barry Toy and Duane Girard at the helm of Da Kruzers and Peter Rayno at the helm of the Hanamaulu Hillsiders. Dwight Fujii and the Aloha Kia Lihue A’s are back for another run, Joe Bertucci has the Islanders fired up for the season, Ernie Koerte and Kawaihau have added to their powerful line-up. Sia Salausa has the Keonimana Gents seeking their fourth title, Frances DeCosta has strengthened his roster on Kuku’s Aces, the Legends will be staking their claim for Norman Holt and Frank Bukoski and Ohana are raring to go. Gary Yates has added a few new pieces to challenge the league with the Ohana Motors Rebels, Alan Horikawa has the Rookies well conditioned and a dangerous lineup and Al Magno is excited with a new line up for West Kauai.
The 15 team league runs each Saturday morning from Jan. 5 through July 27 with each team playing 28 games. As of the 2019 season, all players are required to be at least 60 years old in their first year of competition. Those players in their 50s who had played in the league previously are grandfathered under the new state rule.
A full slate of games packed two fields for the league opener. On the main diamond, Pat Baniaga’s Barteks has their hands full with a pumped up Kuku’s Aces squad. DeCosta’s hitters put up a good fight, posting 11 runs on a solid defense only to go down swinging in a Bartek’s 18-11 victory.
Frank Bukoski had Ohana jump out with an early commanding lead over first-timers Hana Hou, but then had to hang on to pullout a 12-11 squeaker. The Keonimana Gents did not miss a beat in their first game, pasting Joe Bertucci’s Islanders, 20-5, in a shortened game.
Down on the lower all-grass field, four games were underway. Pitching was a challenge for the slow pitch form due to the elevated baseball mound still on the field of play. The slope of the mound forced the pitchers to take a step up the hill to launch their pitch. It also presented a challenge defending ground balls up the middle.
To make it fair, the East facing plate forced the hitters to look directly into the rising sun, blinding them to the pitch. A perfect loft meant an invisible ball. After adjusting the sunglasses, Alan Horikawa unleashed a ferocious Rookies attack, shutting out the East Kauai Legends in five innings, 16-0.
Dwight Fujii had the Aloha Kia Lihue A’s in mid-season form, rolling to a 14-2 win over Pete Rayno and the Hanamaulu Hillsiders.
Kawaihau and the Rebels got locked up in a tight game that came down to a walk-off win. Ernie Koerte stunned the Rebels and jumped out to an early 2-0 lead only to see Gary Yates guide the Rebels to a 5-2 advantage through six. Kawaihau rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game and put the crowd on the edge of their seats. Two leadoff hits followed by a sacrifice fly gave the Rebels at tight 6-5 win.
The day wrapped up with the Barry Toy’s insurgent Kruzers, who shocked West Kauai with their strongest opening day performance and a rousing 16- 4 decision.
The season continues with games at the Bryan J. Baptiste Sports Complex in Kapaa and the Garden Park at the Wailua Houselots. In Kapaa, the Gents take on the Legends, the Rebels will square off with the Hanamaulu Hillsiders, West Kauai goes up against Hana Hou and the Rookies will have their hands full with Da Kruzers.
At the Wailua Houselots diamond, Kawaihau hosts Solid Steel, Barteks has Ohana on the slate and Aloha Kia Lihue A’s have Kuku’s Aces on tap. The games begin at 9 a.m. at each park.
Barteks 18, Kuku’s Aces 11
Ohana 12, Hana Hou 11
Keonimana Gents 20, Islanders 5
Rookies 16, East Kauai Legends 0
Aloha Kia Lihue A’s 14, Hanamaulu Hillsiders 2
Ohana Rebels 6, Kawaihau 5
Da Kruzers 16, West Kauai 4