Scrappy Luna baseball team looking to win some games
LAHAINA – For going on 25 years, Manu Kenolio, Darren Opunui and Harry Flores have been among the grinders – the true grit of youth baseball here on the West Side. Most of those spring times were spent at the Little League field at Lahaina Recreation Center as the stalwart coaches and caretakers of the youth baseball programs and facilities there.
More recently, the trio moved across the old cane road at the center to the newer diamonds built for higher levels of Little League Baseball and as a practice facility for the Lahainaluna High School team.
They took over as coaches of the Lunas six years ago and have served as the mentors of the program throughout those seasons.
This year, head coach Kenolio and his trusty sidekicks Opunui and Flores are joined by Kona Medeiros and Brian Andersen to form the staff of the Lahainaluna team.
To be straight up, it has been a tough and uphill climb for the undermanned, yet tirelessly determined Lunas.
Despite a winless Maui Interscholastic League season a year ago and a 0-7 start going into the third weekend of play last week, Kenolio and company remain committed to grow and rebuild the program.
From the dugout at the Lunas’ practice field last week, Coach Opunui described most of the MIL, including the Lahainaluna team, as young and inexperienced.
“Seems like we’re always rebuilding with these young and scrappy players,” said the veteran coach. “All across the MIL, except for Baldwin and Maui High, the rosters are full of young guys. And our team is small physically as well, but they play and practice hard.”
Leading the way for the Lunas are returning seniors Jacob Mahon, the team captain and iron man behind the plate, pitcher/second baseman Roen Ginoza, shortstop/pitcher Kaala Wells, outfielder Jake Miyake, first baseman Calen Shogun Matsuda, and infielder Micah Akamine. Surprisingly, there are no juniors on the Luna roster, which reiterates the youthful nature of the team.
The sophomore group includes Nainoa Ko (SS), Reggie Bush (OF), Mason Arruda (P, IF), Brian Murillo (P, OF), Leo Anby (C, IF), and Kili Keohuloa (IF). The 2016 Luna freshmen are Kamalei Watson (OF), Logan Kalawaia (IF), Kainalu Kailila’au (IF), Jay-Z Paleka Wright (OF), and Kamahao Acpal (P, OF).
“We’re hitting the ball pretty good and our pitching is holding up,” explained Coach Darren. “Our defense is a question mark for us. We’re small, but we have good team speed. Hopefully, we can string together some consistent play in all areas and win some games.”
All 12 MIL regular season games – versus Baldwin, Maui High, Kamehameha Schools Maui, and King Kekaulike – will be played at Iron Maehara Stadium in Wailuku through mid-April. The MIL and state tournaments will follow at the end of the month and will also be played here on Maui at Iron Maehara Stadium.
“All of the fields are in great shape, as a Maui County Special Maintenance crew was sent around to all of the ballparks to fix them up,” added Opunui. “They did a great job, and we thank them for that.”