Like father, like sons

HANAPEPE — To quote the famous idiom, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

If ever there was an appropriate instance, the Ephans should be a textbook example as the father and his two sons share a common thread.

“It’s very exciting. Most of all, most importantly, it’s a blessing,” said Waimea High School varsity baseball coach Larry Ephan on Friday at Hanapepe Stadium, where he held practice for his 15U Cal Ripken youth baseball team. “All the hard work these guys put in, to have them go to where I started my collegiate career, it’s a great honor for me.”

After graduating from Waimea High School in 1989, Ephan received a scholarship to play baseball at Lewis-Clark State College, an NAIA public school in Lewiston, Idaho.

In his three years as a LCSC Warriors catcher, Ephan won three NAIA World Series national championships under National College Baseball Hall of Fame coach Ed Cheff.

In April, Ephan went back to Lewis-Clark and was inducted to the school’s hall of fame along with his teammates from the 1992 Warriors season.

“We were the first guys to win it outside of Lewiston,” Ephan said. The NAIA World Series is hosted annually at the LCSC home stadium. “(That year), it was held in Des Moines, Iowa.”

He added: “In April, it was 25 years since I went back to Lewiston. It was amazing to go back there. I ran into a lot of good friends that was in the game and outside the game. The community is a small community — I think 30,000 population in Lewiston. Big baseball school, and they remember your name. Everywhere we go, they remembered who I was at 25 years. It was just amazing. … to first of all see all my ex-teammates, and to be there when they honored Coach Cheff by renaming the stadium to Ed Cheff Stadium. It was a blessing and an honor.”

As head coach of Waimea High’s varsity baseball team, two of his sons, Brock and Caleb, have played under him as part of the Menehune squad.

Brock graduated in 2014, and Caleb just graduated this year.

Brock has been traveling around the Mainland playing ball since he graduated from Waimea High. In 2016, he played at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona.

That year at Yavapai, along with Kapaa High School alumnus Rashaan “Turtle” Kuhaulua, Brock won the JUCO World Series national championship.

After the season, he received a scholarship to play at his father’s alma mater, Lewis-Clark State College, where he plays first baseman.

“They called me at the end of the season (at Yavapai) and asked what was my options,” Brock said in a phone interview Saturday. “If I was going to NAIA, that’s the school I was going to. I know what kind of program they were. They’ve created a lot of successful players. That’s what I felt like I needed.”

He added the fact his father played there was “one of the biggest factors.”

“He’s always told me stories about the stuff they do. I felt like it would be a great way to challenge myself and see what kind of guy I am,” Brock said. “Yeah, I felt like that was one of the biggest decision-makers.”

This past season, Brock — who’s listed as a 6-foot-4, 265-pound infielder — won another national title.

LCSC defeated Faulkner University of Montgomery, Alabama, in the Avista NAIA World Series championship game on June 2 at the school’s home field, Harris Field, 6-4.

“It’s awesome. To win a championship is always awesome,” Brock said. “Having my parents there and my family, that made it more special.”

In that championship game, Brock was 1-4 with an RBI single. In his junior year at LCSC, he posted a 0.333 batting average with 28 hits — including six home runs — and 30 RBIs, according to the LCSC Athletics.

Several family members and friends, including his father and brother Caleb, attended the game to witness Brock win his second national college title, which was also LCSC’s third-consecutive NAIA championship and 19th overall.

“It was pretty exciting being in that atmosphere, being in a World Series,” Caleb, who played catcher for the Menehune this past season, said Friday in Hanapepe. “It’s like, I want it.”

The father added: “Seeing it in front of the stands was nerve-wracking. … They lost the first championship game. Being they were undefeated, they had to play a second ‘what-if’ game. That went down to the wire. Being in the stands in a championship atmosphere like that, when you really don’t have control over anything, was very nerve-wracking. It was a big sigh of relief when they made that third out.”

For Caleb, he initially made contact with LCSC months earlier in Arizona.

“I went on a trip, I think, at the beginning of the school year. With Team Hawaii (a traveling baseball club), I met the coach at one of the games,” Caleb said. “He saw my last name. He mentioned Brock. So, I got to meet him and he watched some of my games. And I ended up talking to him more about the school.”

During the trip to Lewiston for the NAIA World Series, Caleb had a chance to work out with the team.

“When we went up there, my brother told me I should just work out with them. So, I ended up working out with them,” he said. “Kind of like regular practice. They said they liked my swing. Then the coach, he was like, I have enough potential to help his team.”

Soon after, Caleb — who is 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds — was offered a scholarship. He was considering other schools, namely San Diego State University, but said he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity from LCSC.

He signed his letter of intent Wednesday.

“At first when he made me the offer, I was just stoked,” he said. “After watching them win the World Series, the team that they raised and made, it was like, ‘I love it.’ I like how they play. I like everything.”

Before signing on at LCSC, both Brock and Caleb both said they’ve felt pressure considering their father’s history there.

Brock, though, said the weight is lifted since he won his own title at the school. Caleb hopes to do the same.

“It puts a lot of pressure on me because, knowing my dad won three rings and Brock won his first championship, I’m going there next year and it puts a lot of pressure on me,” Caleb said. “I have a lot of standards to meet.”

Brock is staying busy this summer. He’s playing with the Marysville Gold Sox, a club in Marysville, California, that’s part of a collegiate summer baseball league. The club’s manager is Hanapepe native and Hawaii Pacific University assistant coach Dallas Correa.

“It’s fun. I knew the guy growing up,” Brock said about playing for Correa. “I understand his style of coaching.”

He will then return to LCSC for his senior year. He’s not only reuniting with his brother, but he’s also been named team captain for next season.

“It’s going to be cool,” Brock said. “To play with your little brother (in college), you really don’t get that opportunity every day. I mean, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to test him a lot, but we’ll see what he’s capable of in this program.”

When he makes the move to Lewiston, Caleb is about to play on the same team with his older brother for the first time since Brock’s senior year at Waimea High in 2014.

“I means a lot, actually,” he said. “Not being able to play with my brother, coming up as a freshman — and he’s been there for this past year — he can teach me a lot. Give me more stuff to learn about what I need to do in college.”

Coach Ephan wanted to thank all those who have assisted his sons along the way — namely Ricky Wa’alani and family, and Kirk Correa and family.

“Anybody who knows baseball in the Northwest, you know about Lewis-Clark State. It’s a tradition,” he said. “Everybody that goes there, you know you’re there for baseball. You eat, sleep and everything baseball. To have that, being that now both of my sons are going there, you cannot explain it. It’s a blessing.”

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