Lahainaluna softball team looks to compete for MIL championship
LAHAINA – The dedication and leadership of our West Side youth coaches/mentors is exemplified in the year-round work of Lahainaluna High School softball head coach Lei Nakamura. For two decades, Coach Lei has guided the girls’ diamond game not only here in Lahaina but all across the Valley Isle, and at all age levels, including youngsters as young as five years old.
She has served as commissioner of the Maui Girls Softball Association, head coach of Hawaii Pearls Maui, current president of Lahaina Youth Fast Pitch Softball, and all along the watchtower as lead mentor of the Lahainaluna program.
Her work exemplifies the ever-expanding list of youth sports leaders whose dedication includes not only their specific field but also the positive spiritual growth of the next generation.
Taking over for Lahaina legends Alvin Agawa and Earle Kukahiko, who had set the pathway for the high school and youth softball programs in the community, Nakamura has cemented the stones for the Red Tide river to flow on to greater heights.
In particular, Lahainaluna softball has solidified its spot in the top rungs of the Maui Interscholastic League and further into the Hawaii High School Athletic Association rankings.
Guided by Coach Lei and trusty assistant Joe Keanini, the Lady Lunas finished the 2015 MIL season with a 10-2 record behind longtime nemesis Baldwin in the final standings.
That could all change for the current campaign, as Nakamura noted that the Lahainaluna team returns seven starters and five more returnees to fill the graduation gaps, as well as one senior newcomer and five first-year student athletes with junior varsity experience this year.
Leading the way for the Lady Lunas will be the 2015 MIL All-Star battery of Taylor Asio in the circle and Mele Pasikala behind the plate. Ryah “Coke Float” Kaniho will be at first base, Kaylee Harmon will play second base, Asti Arcangel will play third, and Giovanna Johnson and Taylor Panlasigui will patrol two of the outfield spots. Senior first-year players Dianarey Talaroc Kaniho, Mikela Cabagua and Fiemea Hafoka, and sophomores Elikapeka Garcia, Mia Gerbig and Shelia Sadang Tateyama are among a talented group that will likely fill the third outfield position.
Rounding out the roster will be JV first-year players Seraya Casco, Nohili Hong, Ka’aina Kalanikau, Daisha Dagdag and Tamia Duldulao Kahaialii. Kaitlin Hodgins, a sophomore, is injured but will step in to help as the team manager.
Clearly, this Lahainaluna team will contend and compete in the MIL and, most likely, at the state tournament.
“We have a strong returning class with the seven returning starters,” said Coach Lei from the dugout at Lady Luna Field last week. “Our strengths are our pitching and at catcher, and our defense will be tough. Hitting is still a question, and we’ll work hard at that – fine tune things.”
She added that most of the roster played on the Maui Pearls that competed all over Hawaii and also traveled to the Mainland to compete in tournaments in California, Colorado and Nevada. That road trip lasted for a month during last summer.
“That trip really raises the level of play of our girls. It brings on higher expectations and opens eyes to future decisions,” she said.
The regular season will fire its first pitches on March 5, with the regular season running through April 25. Next, the post-season tournament will determine the two MIL tickets to the state playoffs slated for March 10-13 at Rainbow Wahine Stadium in Honolulu.
Coach Lei sent out a big mahalo to Lahainaluna Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch, Athletic Trainers Jonathan Conrad and Helen Hetzel, the Lahaina community, and husband Flint Nakamura for all their support of Lady Luna softball.
It should be noted that six of the team’s MIL contests will take place on campus at Lady Luna Field, one of the top softball facilities in Hawaii and across the country.
Once again, the Lahaina community has risen up the collective energy it takes to work through Department of Education guidelines to produce a state-of-the-art facility to enhance the positive culture of holistic educational opportunities of Lahainaluna.
There are lights, a scoreboard, a finely manicured and maintained field kept up by Flint, and a million dollar view across the Lahaina Roadstead and beyond the horizon.
If you build it, they will come. Be there!