Iwata, Allianic sign to play for UH

Kaua‘i High School seniors Jessica Iwata and Trent Allianic had a rather eventful morning as their friends and family gathered at the high school gym to witness a significant event.

The two of them were born on the same day (Dec. 21) minutes apart from each other, birthed at the same hospital, taken care of by the same nurse. And yesterday, they were going to share another special date. Iwata and Allianic officially signed their letters of intent formally committing them to play Division I athletics for the University of Hawai‘i.

“We always considered ourselves as twins,” Iwata said. “We were close ever since we were little. We both played baseball together and we’re both at Kaua‘i High. Now I’m playing softball and he’s playing baseball and we’re both going to play for the University of Hawai‘i. It’s kind of neat how that worked out. That’s why we wanted to sign on the same day.”

Iwata, a Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation and Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association all-star and last year’s HHSAA Most Outstanding Player, will be playing softball. Allianic, also a KIF and HHSAA all-star, will play baseball.

“It feels pretty good,” she said. “It’s kind of stressful filling out (college) applications and this is kind of like a burden off my chest. I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to go to school.”

Iwata played in the past two state championship title games held at the university.

Hawai‘i head softball coach Bob Coolen said that Iwata popped onto his radar back when she was playing in a softball league state qualifier at the Central O‘ahu Regional Park. Iwata was playing for a Guava Jam when a man — who later turned out to be Iwata’s grandfather — approached Coolen, tipping him off that Iwata was someone to watch out for.

“(When I went down there) she hit a home run on her first at bat,” Coolen said. “I watched her play and I noticed she had real knowledge of the game. When I asked her (afterward) if she’d played any other sport and she said ‘baseball.’”

Coolen then said that Iwata reminded him of another outstanding KIF player in Dee Wisneski. Wisneski, a member of the 1990 Waimea High School softball state championship team and current Hawai‘i assistant softball coach, also came from a baseball background. Coolen said in both players, skills learned from baseball were then carried over to softball.

“I could tell she was a gamer and that’s what really gravitated me toward her. She had real knowledge, and all the other things I look for, like quick hands, quick feet. And she’s a good student,” he said. “The accolades are just there for her. I looked at old articles and her name popped up everywhere. You don’t really see that from the Neighbor Island schools. So she’s been on the radar for a while.”

Hawai‘i will be graduating a huge chunk of its team this spring so it would appear that Iwata’s signing is perfect timing.

“We lose our entire infield, from third to short to second to first, so I figure she would be a middle infielder. I’ve only seen her play shortstop, so she will be one of the players who will vie for a spot (there). And we have other players who are willing to move around to open up that spot,” Coolen said.

Iwata joins Kapa‘a High School graduate Jocelyn Enrique on the Rainbow Wahine softball team.

Allianic, who was a pitcher and third baseman for last year’s state championship team, was instrumental in the rising of the Red Raider program throughout the tournament. He was the winning pitcher in last year’s semifinal win over the Moloka‘i Farmers, earning the Raiders a spot in the title game. They went on to beat St. Anthony 1-0 at the Les Murakami Stadium.

“(Officially signing), I was pretty nervous, but it was pretty exciting at the same time,” Allianic said. “I was so relieved to commit to a school because that’s all I wanted to do all throughout high school. It was always my dream to play baseball.”

Going to Manoa, Allianic is also happy that he’s close enough that his family will be able to watch him play.

Allianic is also a member of the six-time KIF championship football team. Last year, Allianic hurt his left shoulder while playing in the semifinal football game against ‘Iolani School. Because it wasn’t his throwing/pitching arm, he wasn’t too worried that it would jeopardize his future playing baseball.

“I told the UH coach about it and he said it was fine. He said to just have the minor surgery and then I’d be fine,” Allianic said. “It’s fine. I just had to rehab it.”

With the OK from doctors and the baseball coaches, Allianic returned this season to the football team, only more as the backup quarterback so to not aggravate the injury. He’s also been playing as the undefeated Raiders’ primary kicker.

“I became the kicker because it was an option for me to get more playing time, if I wasn’t going to play quarterback,” he said. “Only now, my doctor said I’m not allowed to play quarterback for the rest of the games. He doesn’t want (my arm) to get worse.”

Allianic will be the next wave of Hawai‘i pitching from Kaua‘i. Recently, Kaua‘i grad Mark Rodrigues played for Hawai‘i. He graduated two years ago and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians.

Allianic said he was spotted by the coaches while he was on O‘ahu playing for a league. That’s when he was approached by one of the coaches and he knew he wanted to sign with Hawai‘i. Phone calls to the Hawai‘i baseball coaches were not immediately returned.

Allianic will start post-season football on Friday. He and Iwata start their final baseball and softball seasons this spring.

• Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com

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