Majors prepare for state

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Zaedyn Tupou, from left, Kamekona Thompson, Kimo ‘Mo’ Kupihea and Zane Victorino of the Kawaihau Majors All Stars thank a shopper for her support Friday at the Safeway store in Hokulei Village, Puhi, during fundraising for their trip to the state championship.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kimo Kupihea of the Kawaihau Majors All Stars winds up for a pitch during practice Thursday at Kapahi Park.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kamekona Thompson of the Kawaihau Majors All Stars makes a play on Zane Victorino at home during practice Thursday at Kapahi Park.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Zaedyn Tupou of the Kawaihau Majors All Stars releases a pitch with a base runner, Zane Victorino, on second base, during practice Thursday at Kapahi Park.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The Kawaihau Majors All Stars, players being between 10 and 12 years old, take a break from practice for a team photo before heading to the Hawaii Little League State Championships on the Big Island. In front from left are Noah Ibaan, Kaimana Chong, Nainoa Melchor, Matthew Estrada and Iden Kaui-Reconsal. In back from left are Zane Victorino, Manager John Melchor, Kimo Kupihea, Lehia Tihada, coach Kiko Kaneali‘i, Andrew Sadamitsu, Colten Banquel, coach Dustin Mundon, Kamekona Thompson, Zaedyn Tupou, coach Aaron Kupihea, Samiuela Kauvaka, and Brysen Ka‘auwai.

Members of the Kawaihau Community Little League Majors All Stars will be exchanging their baseball gear for fishnets, sponges, brushes, hoses, and even Zumba wear — for the next few days, at least.

“We’ll be participating in the Hawaii Little League State Championships,” said Manager John Melchor of the 14-player squad. “Everything takes place at the Na‘alehu Ball Park on the Big Island, July 19 through the 23rd.”

Casey Tupou, a team parent, said the all stars, including players between 10 and 12 years old, had earlier taken the District 1 playoffs on Oahu to earn the right to advance to the state championships.

“This is the age group that will advance beyond the state championships,” Tupou said. “They were able to take the state title as Minors, and that’s when it all ended. This year, they are Majors, and if they are successful at securing the state title, they go straight to the regionals that will be held in San Bernardino, California. They could go all the way to the Little League World Series that will play in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Aug. 15 through 25.”

The possibility of advancing to Pennsylvania with little, if any, time to fundraise for the potential Little League World Series berth is just one challenge that faces the group of young players.

“We’ve got a lot of events scheduled where the boys will be asking for help from the community,” Melchor said. “They’ve only a day to rest if they can get the state title. After that, it’s just go, go, go until the end of August 25. We still have a lot of work to do.”

The players, coaches, parent volunteers, and Kawaihau Community Little League leaders will be manning fishnets at the Safeway stores in Hokulei Village in Puhi on Monday and Tuesday, July 15 and 16, before boarding the plane for the Big Island.

Between then, the all stars are on fishnet duty at the Lihue Walmart today, and hosting a car wash at Kukui Grove Center Sunday, July 14, from 9 a.m.

“We also have a Zumba fundraiser Sunday at the Kauai Athletic Club Kapaa,” said Roxanne Thompson, another team parent. “This one starts at 5:30 p.m. and is $10 per person at the door. The Zumba fundraiser is led by Kureen Medeiros, Joanie Morita, Kawehi Anama and friends.”

But fundraising is not the only thing on Melchor’s mind as he watched the enthusiastic young players work through various defensive drills during practice at Kapahi Park.

“We just got to keep grinding,” the manager said. “It’s just one game at a time. The boys all know each other. They’ve either played with each other, or know each other from other teams and tournaments such as Da Bash, and the Winter League. They’ve got to play together and pick each other up when they need to.”

To get to the state playoffs, Kawaihau recently took the Hawaii Little League District 1 title in Kailua, Oahu, by defeating Kainalu, 15-0, and holding off a strong Kailua challenge for two games, 7-5 and 6-3, for the District pennant at the tournament that concluded Sunday.

“We’ve got good pitching,” Melchor said. “The pitching was lights out, and the bats came alive when they needed to. The boys play well together, and it comes together.”

Zane Victorino, one of the players, said the District play was fun.

“The first game when we won 15-0 was just three innings,” Victorino said. “I got a base hit in that game along with Colten Banquel. Brysen Ka‘auwai hit into a grand slam! It was fun.”

Melchor credits the pitching combination of Andrew Sadamitsu, Ka‘auwai, Matthew Estrada and Kimo Kupihea for leading the District victory. He also got help from the other coaches beyond the three listed on the roster — Dustin Mundon, Aaron Kupihea, Kiko Kaneali‘i, Kahai Nakano, Baba Martin for speed and quickness, and Micah Furtado.

“There has been at least one team from Kauai that made regionals,” Melchor said. “But that was a long time ago. These boys have been playing together for a long time, too, and I’m stoked that we’ve come this far. They won the District title as Minors for three times, this year as Majors. This is the first time they’re trying for the state title as Majors. But, as I said before, it’s just one game at a time — they gotta be firing on all cylinders — all the way, until Aug. 25!”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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