Scrappy Lahainaluna baseball team moving up in the MIL
LAHAINA – First-year head baseball coach Tim Acpal sees a bright future for the Lahainaluna High School program. Acpal, along with veteran assistants Darren Opunui and Harry Flores gathered a young and vibrant roster that has shown definitive signs of moving up the Maui Interscholastic League ladder.
Now in the homestretch of the 2019 season, the Luna horsehiders are battling for the top slots in the MIL tournament and the second seed to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association (HHSAA) State Tournament. That tournament will be played here on the Valley Isle at Iron Maehara Baseball Stadium in Wailuku next week. Nationally ranked and defending state champion Baldwin has already locked up the MIL’s top seed to the state playoffs.
Coach Acpal has been on the staff for four years and has seen the team chemistry develop throughout that tenure.
“We’re small in numbers, but these kids have been playing together through the youth league years and have learned to compete together really well. Some of them I’ve had since T-ball days, and to see them grow into players and men that they became has been an awesome experience.”
“We’re a scrappy team,” he went on to say. “We’re not perfect, but we keep ourselves in the game. We’ll battle for one or two runs and then play tough defense with a good mix in the lineup. We still make some mistakes in the mental part of the game and get down on ourselves, but credit the coaches lifting them up.”
A senior leadership group of four-year returnees has spearheaded the Lunas’ resurgence. Team captains Kainalu Kaililaau and Kamahao Acpal lead the charge along with classmates Skylyan Tabon Laborte, JayZ Paleka Wright, Kamalei Watson and Koapaka Purdy. Adding experience to the team are juniors Kalewa Kalanikau, Jandon Llego, Anu McCabe, Micah Barroga, Jobe Catan Lono and Isaiah Asia.
Sophomores on the roster include Austin Panlasigui, James Smythe, Ekolu Mathias and Kalai Storer.
Freshmen student-athletes on the team are Kealaula Medeiros, Vincent Iwamura, Nephi Hong, Tony Felice and Ryan Pagdilao.
According to Coach Acpal, the Lunas have benefited from the weightlifting program provided by Lawrence Kauhaahaa and assisted by Kenui Watson.
“The weightlifting program has really made a difference. We also appreciate the help of Auntie Rae Matsumoto and Coach Bobby Watson, as well as the support of the parents and the Lahaina community. From the coaches’ perspective, the future looks bright and the talent continues to improve with more training in the youth leagues.”