Tide turning for Little League Baseball in West Maui
LAHAINA – All across Maui County, from Upcountry to Kaunakakai, from Lanai to Lahaina, the sounds of spring echo from community parks with the ping of bats connecting with baseballs and the high-pitched chatter of the kids in the fulfillment of their march across their field of dreams.
The crowds gather at the manicured diamonds at Dorvin Leis Field, at Iron Maehara Stadium, and at Eddie Tam Field as the 2015 highlight reel of Little League Baseball here on the Valley Isle takes the stage.
The District III All-Star tournaments for the age 9-10 Minors, 11-12 Majors and 13-14 Juniors played out over the last three weeks.
This week, six teams made up of the elite players from the Central, Upcountry, Kihei, West Maui, Lanai and Molokai districts took to the diamond at Eddie Tam Field in Makawao to determine the District III Majors (11-12) Division representative to the state playoffs in Honolulu later this month.
From there, the Hawaii representative will move on to the regional playoffs along with teams from across the U.S., Asia, Europe, Middle East, South America and the Pacific to chase the dream of a ticket to the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pennsylvania in August.
The West Maui team, guided by the dynamic duo of league President Anna Kanaha and Manager Jason Kanaha, along with coaches Vernon Kanaha Jr. and Charlie McCabe, will take a talented team – made up primarily of players from the league champion Phillies – to the Majors Division playoffs at the home field of host Upcountry.
AJ Bianco, Dylan Falk, Liam Chadli, Kamu Kanaha, Anu McCabe, Ross Panlasigui, Teanu Roddriguez Furtado and Ben Zeigler are the elite eight from the “Phils.”
Four players from the Cardinals will be on the field for West Maui, including Ekolu Mathias, James Smythe, Vincent Iwamura and Kealaula Medeiros.
Tobey Mizuno will represent the Orioles on the roster, with Jimmy Falk from the Phillies ready to fill in as the team alternate.
“We’ve got some strong pitching and solid hitting, so I think we’ll do well in this tournament,” said Manager Jason Kanaha last week.
“The tide is turning for Little League Baseball on the West Side, and I think the kids are starting to get into the game a little more. The support in the community for youth baseball is definitely growing, so I think we’re on the right track to bring back the quality of play we’ve seen in the past over here.”
Indeed, the West Maui team reached the District III Majors finals last year for the first time in 15 years, and although they lost to Maui powerhouse Central in that contest, the tide does look to be turning toward the west in this division.
The District III Minors (9-10) Tournament was hosted by Kihei Little League and played at Dorvin Leis Field at Kalama Park on June 5-10. The West Maui team was coached by Ryan Toshikiyo, John Kim and Body Long, and the player roster was made up of Sylas Jenkins, Landon Long, Quentin Starbuck, Keanu Kaina, Tony Felice, Logan Richard, Mason Alexander, Ryan Pagdilao, Kyle Delos Santos, Tevai Rodriguez Furtado, Kalapana Labasan, Aiden Brown, Aiden Keka Belt and Talan Toshikiyo.
The Juniors (13-14) District III Playoffs were held at Iron Maehara Stadium in Wailuku on June 19-24 and included the same six teams that competed in the Minors and Majors tournaments.
West Maui was guided by Manager Kelii Arruda and coaches Jeff Felice and Vernon Kanaha. Mason Arruda, Raige Bush, Spencer Felice, Jaiven Kanaha, Nainoa Ko, Tani Kuluhiwa Kim, Landon McLaughlin, Bryan Murillo, Jacob Presley, Dylan Smith, Tyler Toshikiyo and Chandler Watson filled the West Maui player roster.