LAHAINA - The bloodlines of athletic tradition at Lahainaluna High School run deeply into the cultural fiber of the West Side community through the mentors of the various programs offered up at the historic Maui campus. This bond is clearly evident in the 2012 Luna baseball team.
Lahainaluna's diamond nine this year is led by first-year coach and Lahaina boy Blaine Bernades and a red tide staff of West Side baseball junkies, including his dad, Brandon Bernades, Wes Medeiros, KK Kukahiko, Manu Kenolio, Darren Opunui and Jason Keanini - all longtime supporters of the game through Little League and on up to the high school.
Blaine returned to Maui after almost a decade on the Mainland attending Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado, and immersing himself into the sport he loves.
The team includes (from left): front — Bronson Kaina, Noah Camara, Kamoana Kalanikau, Dustin Ompoy, Ryan Delatori and Scott Medeiros-Tangitailoa; back row — Sosaia Moala, Kaimana Ancog, Marcus Badua, Kamaka Barbosa-Pamat, JR Kenolio-Dusenberry, Tyler Okimoto, Kaimana Casco-DeLeon, Malama Cabagua, Aaron Naea and Gerry Ramirez.
He played catcher for the MSC team and served as a graduate assistant there while coaching American Legion and high school ball as well, earning a degree in kinesiology.
A year after returning home to Maui to take a job with a local insurance company, young Bernades found that the Lahainaluna head coaching position had opened up.
"I put my application in and, fortunately, got the job. I guess the timing was right because I've always wanted to coach at Lahainaluna," he said.
"I know the transition will be tough, but I also know that these Lahaina kids want to compete, and that desire to compete is central in my coaching philosophy. We realize that we don't have the dominate-type players like Central Maui, but we know that the kids over here want to play and that they have a strong work ethic. We'll teach these kids - many of them multi-sport athletes - as much as we can, as quickly as we can."
Coach Blaine then went on to correlate his philosophy to the academic side of being a high school athlete. He stated directly that there are several players on the roster with grade problems that need to heed his anthem for them to be competitive.
"I want them to take school as a competition and to have the desire to do their best in the classroom to be better than the kid sitting next to them. They need to compete in the classroom just as hard as they do on the playing field. I think we'll succeed if they do this. It's all part of the mental approach to the game - to make winning an expectation," he said.
On the field, Bernades explained that the Lunas will depend on pitching and defense to win games, and that they are not a big hitting offensive team.
"Our starters are doing well, and with one hit or one good pitch here and there, we could be 5-2, instead of 2-5. We are definitely a better team than our record shows, but we as coaches need to instill that winning attitude in the kids to win those close games," he explained.
Lahainaluna has lost three games in the last inning, but most recently hung tough to beat previously undefeated and league leading Baldwin in extra innings last week.
The senior leadership core for the Lunas this season includes returning lettermen JR Kenolio-Dusenberry, Dustin Ompoy, Marcus Badua, Sosaia Moala, Gerry Ramirez and Tyler Okimoto; with junior Noah Camara; sophomores Bronson Kaina, Kaimana Ancog, Kaimana Casco-DeLeon, Aaron Naea and Kamaka Barbosa Pamat; and freshmen Ryan Delatori, Kamoana Kalanikau, Scott Medeiros-Tanagitailoa, Malama Cabagua and Ryan Ginoza rounding out the roster.
Coach Blaine expressed his gratitude to real life and team mom Merle Bernades and his girlfriend, Hauanu Santiago, for their support.
He also thanked the school administration, including Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch and Clerk Rae Matsumoto, for their help with "the administrative stuff."
"All these people help keep things going in the right direction. It takes long hours to get this job done, and I really appreciate all that they do to help me," Coach Bernades concluded.