Veteran baseball mentors leading Lahainaluna team
LAHAINA – They are the dynamic duo of youth baseball here on the West Side. For more than 20 years, the Batman and Robin team of Manu Kenolio and Darren Opunui had been the mentoring leadership and field caretakers of West Maui Little League Baseball.
Now, they are taking their dedicated service to the bigger diamond across the old cane road mauka of the youth fields and to the next level with the Lahainaluna High School varsity baseball program.
Stepping into the cleats of departed head coach Blaine Bernades, who resigned because he and his wife are expecting their first child and his business responsibilities increased, the transition will be a smooth one for Kenolio, as he has spent the last three seasons as a Luna assistant.
Coach Manu will also have his steady sidekick Opunui in the dugout beside him, along with veteran assistants Brandon Bernades (Blaine’s dad), Jason Keanini, Harry Flores, Kona Medeiros, Brandon Anderson and newcomer Dominik Lucia.
Lahainaluna finished the 2014 season in the basement of the Maui Interscholastic League standings, but according to Coach K, they have the talent to move up the ladder.
“We have three quality starting pitchers and good team speed, so if we can sharpen up our mental approach in-game, we should be all right,” he said last week from the team’s practice site at the Lahaina Recreation Center Field. “We do really well when our heads are in the game, but we’ve been hurt by errors and mental lapses already in the start of the MIL season. If we tighten up our defense, string some hits together, take advantage of small ball opportunities with our bats, we should win our share of games.”??
Leading the way for the 2015 Lunas will be senior returnees Akoni Hamilton Golis, Scotty Medeiros Tangatailoa, Ryan Delatori, Ryan Ginoza, Kuu Palea, Shaun Naea Lopez, Amateo Flores and Kenji Brito.
The experienced junior class includes Calen Matsuda, Jacob Mahon, Jabe Oliver, Jake Miyake, Micah Akamine, Kaala Wales, Roen Ginoza and Kia Kenolio Dusenberry.
The returning players from the sophomore class are Enele Scanlon, Kaimi Kanaha and David Kawabata, and the freshmen contingent includes Leo Anby, Mason Arruda, Dylan Smith and Kiliona Keohuloa.
The MIL Division I is made up of Lahainaluna, Baldwin, Maui High, King Kekaulike and Kamehameha Schools Maui. All five will play three-game series against one another each week to determine the regular season champion, then the overall winner will be crowned with the post-season tournament. The two top teams will advance to the state tournament in Honolulu at the end of April.
“We have a good group of seniors that are pulling the team together with their leadership, and the whole roster has a lot of experience. Aside from Baldwin (the Bears are the defending MIL champs), the league is pretty even this year, and I believe we have a good chance if we play mistake-free baseball,” he said.??
“I’m really thankful for this opportunity to work with this team. I’m thankful to the coaches; to my wife, Crim; and especially to Auntie Rae Matsumoto for all of her guidance with taking care of the responsibilities of being the head coach. She has been a really big help,” concluded Kenolio.