KAPAA — Local youth baseball club Kawaihau Little League recently won its third straight district championship and will defend the state title it won last year.
However, this is a new team that will be headed back to states this year, said head coach Kaupena Kaauwai.
“I think we have one kid on this team that was on that state team,” Kaauwai said. “Last year, we took two 10-year-old teams. The ‘Gold’ team, they won states, and a lot of them are playing on the Majors team right now. For us, this will be our first time at states, for this group.
“For me, I’ve been to states a couple of times. I’ve been in this league for a long time. I’ve been to many, many tournaments. States is a little more challenging because you’re playing the winners from each district. So, we’ll face some really tough teams.”
The Little League Hawaii 8-10 Year Old (Minors division) state tournament begins Friday in Aiea.
Kawaihau will open against Pearl City on Friday. The Kauai team will head back to Oahu on Thursday night.
“For me, I just hope they go up and play good baseball, win or lose,” Kaauwai said. “The main thing is that we try our hardest and don’t give up. That’s one thing I want to get out of this — just go out there and show what we can do.”
Kawaihau clinched the Little League Hawaii 8-10 Year Old District 1 championship and its berth to the state tournament on Wednesday in Honolulu.
The team went an unbeaten 4-0 at districts and played teams from Kaneohe, Kailua, Kahaluu and Kainalu.
“We practiced for a good 13 days,” Kaauwai said. “They worked extremely hard, and I’m proud of them for doing what they did. They went undefeated, won all four games, and they deserved it, actually. They worked hard.”
He added of their run at districts: “It was a bit of everything. They did hit the ball well, and defense, I think they had maybe a handful of errors throughout the whole tournament. So, defense was good. And with this group, they’re fast. They’re quick on the bases — stealing, base running, scoring on passed balls. That was kind of the difference.”
In addition to coaching the sport itself, the coach said he emphasized team bonding.
“When we first started, at the end of practice, I wanted them to tell what their partner’s favorite food. Some said hot dogs,” Kaauwai said. “A lot of them play Fortnite. So, I was like, ‘What is your favorite Fortnite move?’ I try to have them show me the move, and they’re like, ‘Nah, coach.’ And, just other things.”
The club will host a car wash fundraiser Sunday at Kapaa New Town Park from 8:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.