HPU bids “aloha” to Howard A. Okita Field, Ching in bittersweet day

HPU bids “aloha” to Howard A. Okita Field, Ching in bittersweet day

HPU softball poses together with various depictions of senior Hoku Ching after Senior Day & the final competition at Howard A. Okita Field was called off due to inclement weather. | Photo Credit: Ku’ulei Agbayani, HSRN

HPU bids “aloha” to Howard A. Okita Field, Ching in bittersweet day

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED APR 28, 2024

KĀNE’OHE How can you possibly say goodbye to more than 30 years’ worth of history correctly? Is there a way? 

Saturday marked a poignant, emotional day for Hawai’i Pacific University’s softball team – the final day that the historic Howard A. Okita Field (which opened in 1993) would serve as the home diamond for the Sharks’ softball program as the team prepared to host Chaminade for Senior Day. 

“It’s a bittersweet moment to walk away from the place that we are all so very fortunate to have played on,” HPU head coach Jarnett “Shorty” Lono said after the games were called off due to inclement weather. “We would have loved to have seen competition here … to put the final nail in the coffin, turn the page and move on in the chapters I think, yeah, it’s a bittersweet moment for all of us.” 

Among the memories “Shorty” recollected were the fallen tree fiasco of 2023 and the “sponging” of the field that honored Coach Howard Okita in a sense that she said just provided another representation of the character of a team that has taken no excuse and worked through multiple years of poor circumstances out of their own control. 

The Silverswords were a perfect final opponent for HPU’s finale from the old Hawaii Loa campus field that served as the canvas for years of memories in Sharks’ lore. Chaminade used the field as a home base for two seasons as well, so Saturday gave both Oahu programs an opportunity to say goodbye. 

“Chaminade was fortunate enough to call this place home two years in a row as well, so it meant something to those girls as well,” Lono shared, continuing the emphasis on the field’s meaning to softball in the islands. 

The cancellation of the game did not stop the Sharks from honoring their lone senior in Hoku Ching, a four-year local product from the OIA’s Roosevelt Rough Riders, with a celebration for her impactful career in black, blue and white. 

“We want to see the public-school kids who are from Hawai’i excel and exceed at the next level,” Lono said of her fellow Roosevelt alum. “[Hoku] is a great story. Out of high school, she wasn’t a kid that any school was going to pick up, so she basically gave up on playing softball. We heard she was on campus, we invited her [to tryout], she came and four years later she walks away from having an amazing experience as an HPU Shark.” 

Ching became a mainstay in the HPU lineup since her arrival in 2021, appearing in 156 games across four seasons for the Sharks – including 137 starts in the 138 games HPU has played over the past three years – while tallying 81 hits and providing elite defense in center field. She is finishing a degree in biology. 

While the Sharks’ record was below par in results this season, the program’s culture and team identity never shattered through trying times.  

“To see what the record is on paper doesn’t fulfill what we have actually done. Yes, scholarships, budgets, all of those things continue to go on the decline but still, you’ve got to sport a team of athletes who are going to compete. These girls, they came in every day, they worked their butts off. They love the system, they love the culture, they love the program, and they gave it all they could. [There are] a few games here or there that I thought we should have won, but that’s neither here nor there now,” Lono genuinely expressed in support of her team’s efforts this year.  

Nine losses came by one run for HPU, who returns a majority of the roster looking to return the program to great heights. Led by Pearl City duo Tiari Hernandez and Jewel Larson, six juniors will step into the role of high place on the totem pole as seniors while various underclassmen will be looked upon for some rapid development. 

“We’ve got a great, solid core coming back next year. It’s going to be fun,” Lono shared. “Just the excitement of this junior class, they’re looking forward to get us back to the prominence of [being] the PacWest leader.”  

Just as always, Lono finished the day honoring those who came before in the softball community that continue to support to this day and helped pave the way. 

“We love you; we thank you,” the longtime Sharks’ figure said, voicing her appreciation. “Without you folks [and] your support all these years – the families, an ohana and all the things that we stand for, without ANY of you folks, [playing] wouldn’t be possible for this team and teams that are going to come out. It really is a family affair, we appreciate everybody… Mahalo.” 

Hawai’i fends off Chaminade in midweek non-conference tilt, 2-0

Hawai’i fends off Chaminade in midweek non-conference tilt, 2-0

Hawai’i fends off Chaminade in midweek non-conference tilt, 2-0

BY MICHAEL LASQUERO | HSRN
PUBLISHED APRIL 17, 2024

HONOLULU — Win No. 20 of the year for the Hawai’i baseball team would come in a 2-0 outing against Chaminade in a non-conference matchup Tuesday night at the Les Murakami Stadium.

Ten different pitchers combined for a two-hit shutout for the Rainbow Warriors (20-14) with Brayden Marx earning his first win of the season and Danny Veloz nothing his first save of the year after picking up the final two outs.

The Silverswords’ pitching was also superb as starter Mac Elske retired the entire Hawai’i lineup one time through before giving way to Max Patterson (4-5). Sebastian Castro was also solid as well in 2 and 1/3 innings pitched, facing the minimum seven batters.

Hawai’i would finally break through in the fourth inning when Jake Tsukada and Austin Machado notched back-to-back hits before Kyson Donahue’s two-strike sac fly brought Tsukada home. 

The final run of the game came in the fifth when Elijah Ickes’ had a two-out knock to drive in Ben Ziegler-Namoa, who reached on a walk to leadoff the half-inning.

Jordan Donahue recorded the last hit of the game in the bottom of the eighth to extend his hitting streak to 17 games for the Rainbow Warriors.

Hawai’i coach Rich Hill had nothing but positive things to say about Chaminade (15-29) and head coach Chad Konishi in the program’s first season in over four decades.

“It was great, you have to give credit to Chad Konishi and his staff for really pitching well tonight,” said Hill. “They’re a very well-coached team. Our guys, proud of them, they grinded it out.”

Konishi, who served as an associate head coach for the Rainbow Warriors from 2002 to 2013, was grateful for the experience despite the loss.

“Really nice to be back in the first base dugout, when we were here (the home team) were in the first base dugout, but it’s awesome,” said Konishi.

“I really want to thank coach Hill. I thanked him many times for giving us this opportunity; one, to play them and two, obviously to rent the facility when they’re away on the road. It’s been so helpful for my program, especially for a first year program. We get a chance to play in the best facility in the state so we hope to continue to do that.”

In addition to their strong pitching, the Silverswords had their chances against the Rainbow Warriors. Their best chance at scoring came in the top of the third after Hawai’i intentionally walked Casey Kudell to load the bases as Kudell got the first hit of the game for Chaminade in the first inning. Ultimately, Hawai’i was able to get out of the jam with an inning-ending strikeout from Itsuki Takemoto.

“They did a nice job competing,” said Konishi. “I told my guys, ‘look we had our chances tonight. You guys played well, I’m really proud of the effort, but we had our chances and this is a D1 team that’s in a good conference.’ If we can play like this consistently, I think we would have had a more consistent record, but really proud of just putting a product on the field. Hopefully we can move on in year two and get better and then progress in year three.”

Chaminade and Hawai’i-Hilo split Friday doubleheader at Les Murakami

Chaminade and Hawai’i-Hilo split Friday doubleheader at Les Murakami

Chaminade and Hawai’i-Hilo split Friday doubleheader at Les Murakami

BY MICHAEL LASQUERO | HSRN
PUBLISHED APRIL 6, 2024

HONOLULU — It was a tale of two different games.

Chaminade and Hawai’i-Hilo split their PacWest doubleheader Friday at Les Murakami Stadium and are currently tied at 1-1 in the regular season series.

The Silverswords (14-27 overall, 7-19 conference) won the first game of the twin bill with a 6-5 victory while the Vulcans (15-25, 8-18) snapped a nine-game losing streak with a dominant 14-0 victory in game two.

Chaminade won the first game in walk-off fashion when Ace Perry scored the winner on a wild pitch. 

Freshman left fielder Aydan Lobetos led the ‘Swords at the plate going 3-for-4 with two RBIs.

UH-Hilo held leads of 3-0 after the first inning and 5-3 after the fourth before Chaminade rallied for the win.

Zac Brown (2-1) got credited for the win on the mound for the ‘Swords, pitching in relief for starter Max Patterson, who went seven innings.

Game two was a different story with the Vulcans rapping out 15 hits and 14 runs in a seven-inning contest.

UH-Hilo took control of the game in the second inning when it scored four runs, but really broke the game open with an eight-run outing in the top of the fourth.

Cody Min led the Vulcans with three hits, Alec Yamauchi drove in the most runs with three RBIs and Vance Oshiro and Kyle Casados each scored three runs to power UH-Hilo.

Aaron Davies (3-4) earned the pitching win for the Vulcans with six strikeouts in four innings of work.

UH-Hilo will wrap up its stay on O’ahu in a Sunday double-header against Hawai’i Pacific while Chaminade will travel to the Vulcans’ home next weekend to close out the regular season series between the two teams. 

HPU and Chaminade split non-conference softball double-header

HPU and Chaminade split non-conference softball double-header

HPU and Chaminade split non-conference softball double-header

BY MICHAEL LASQUERO | HSRN
PUBLISHED MARCH 17, 2024

KANEOHE — These two teams sure like to make things fun at the end.

Hawai’i Pacific and Chaminade split a non-conference softball double-header Saturday afternoon with each team notching a one-run victory at Howard A. Okita Field.

The last time the two teams played, the Silverswords took both games with an extra-inning 6-5 win and a 2-1 win over the Sharks on March 3.

HPU was finally able to strike back against its rival on Saturday with a walk-off 6-5 win in game one with shortstop Jewel Larson providing the game-winning RBI. This helped the Sharks snap an 11-game losing streak to earn their fourth win of the year.

Chaminade trailed for most of game two, but surged ahead on a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Desiree Bravo in the fifth before taking the lead on shortstop Taryn Fujioka’s single in the top of the seventh. Larson nearly played hero again for HPU, but a double-play ended the game to secure the 2-1 victory for the Swords (9-7).

The game-sealing play went from center fielder Summer Buck to Fujioka to catcher Larchelle Tuifao to get the game-tying run out at home trying to score from second before Tuifao fired it to third baseman Jaeda Kumaewa-Cabunoc to get Larson out at the corner.

Fujioka was the star of the afternoon, batting 7-for-8 overall with two RBIs in the leadoff spot.

HPU (4-16) tallied nine hits in both games, with Larson and Taimane Panganoran getting three hits each across the two contests.

Taylor Thompson (3-5) was credited with the complete game pitching win for the Sharks in game one. She gave up 11 hits and five unearned runs, but HPU was able to rally with three unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh for the win.

Getting the win in the pitching circle for the Swords in game two was Kamryn Lopez (5-2).

The Sharks will not play another game until next month when they take on Academy of Art in a four-game series that starts on April 2.

Chaminade will have 10 days off before their 12-game road trip in California when the Swords resume PacWest play against Concordia University-Irvine on March 26.

GAME 1

GAME 2

HPU uses defense, paint dominance on Senior Night to down Chaminade

HPU uses defense, paint dominance on Senior Night to down Chaminade

HPU 1st-year head coach Jesse Nakanishi flashes a double thumbs-up to the home crowd following the Sharks’ 77-72 victory on Senior Night over Chaminade. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

HPU uses defense, paint dominance on Senior Night to down Chaminade

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 29, 2024

HONOLULU – Alright, we know where we are dancing. 

The Hawai’i Pacific University men’s basketball team finished the 2023-24 home schedule flying high, taking down island rival Chaminade on Senior Night with a 77-72 victory as forward Maj Dusanic led the Sharks in front of a packed “Shark Tank” with 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting. The victory clinched a top-three seeding for first-year head coach Jesse Nakanishi’s squad in the PacWest Tournament as HPU returns to postseason play for the first time since the 2016-17 season. 

Before tip-off, the Sharks (18-9, 13-6 PacWest) would honor the only graduating senior in guard Tyrease Terrell – a transfer from Nicholls College and a Slidell, Louisiana-native that joined the program this past offseason in hopes of helping HPU turn around their recent luck on the men’s side. The 6-foot-3 graduate student has dealt with various adversities throughout his single year in the program – including missing playing in his own Senior Night due to a head injury – but always did it with a smile on his face. He was surprised with a video message from his close friends and family along with the Noelani students he has mentored and worked with in the “Shark Bite Mentorship Program” this year on O’ahu. 

Class A7 at the school signed a ball and made a poster in support of the guard’s big night and recorded a “thank you” video for the class favorite that was tear-provoking. 

Much like the women’s game from just before, Chaminade looked as though they would play spoiler of the Sharks’ celebration of Terrell – the lone graduating member of the HPU men’s roster – as the visitors opened an early 5-point lead over the Sharks after Scott Ator’s finish inside five minutes into the action. 

The Silverswords continued the early attack as sophomore standout Ross Reeves got in on the fun with five points in under 40 seconds to put CUH ahead by eight with 13:05 remaining in the first half, 17-9. HPU settled in with a pair of Dusanic finishes under the rim before Jacob Kimura’s first 3-point make of the season brought the Sharks within two just over 11 minutes before halftime. 

Charlie Weber followed it up 66 seconds later with a triple of his own to push the hosts ahead by one before getting fouled on another 3-point try and knocking in all three freebies. Matt Van Komen got on the board for the first time a minute after, giving HPU a six-point advantage with 8:02 to play in the half. 

Dusanic added two more buckets in the following minutes, helping HPU maintain the slim lead before some late-clock chaos struck. Turnovers, cold-shooting and Chaminade’s Reeves and Isaac Amaral-Artharee catching fire with a 12-5 run to end the half sent the visitors into the locker room leading by one, 40-39. 

“We came out of the gates slow,” Nakanishi said of his team’s first half performance. “We’re one of the better defensive teams [in the PacWest conference] and we gave up 40 in the 1st half, so a little slow but at least we scored [well in the 1st half].” 

Much like their counterparts before them, HPU quickly opened the 2nd half with some hot long-range shooting as Melo Sanchez drilled a triple before Diggy Winbush got loose for eight consecutive Sharks points (2 3PTM) to push HPU back in front, 50-46. After Amaral-Artharee and Van Komen traded 2-for-2 trips to the charity stripe, Winbush added another jumper to give Hawai’i Pacific a six-point advantage just under seven minutes into the second half. 

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Chaminade’s Kelton Samore pulled the Silverswords back within two, but back-to-back dunks (including an alley-oop) from the 7-foot-4 Van Komen gave the momentum right back to the Sharks. 

Each side continued trading baskets until Wyatt Lowell’s three with 8:09 to play gave the lead back to Chaminade, 63-62. Another HPU dunk, this time by Dusanic, pushed the Sharks back ahead momentarily until Jessiya Villa got a close-range shot to drop on the next possession for CUH. 

After a 30-second timeout from Nakanishi and HPU, the Sharks got another immediate boost in the arm with 7:08 left as Kimura drained a left-corner three – his second 3-point make of the season – putting the hosts in front for good. 

Dusanic provided some breathing room with another set of back-to-back scores for the team before Lowell brought Chaminade within three once again with 4:41 to play. Van Komen layed in another close-range try and Dusanic scored his 17th and 18th points of the night on the next possession to put the Sharks back up by seven with three and a half minutes left in regulation. 

“We really tried to make them guard more than one ball screen, more than one action and that’s where teams often lose guys like [Van Komen and Dusanic] a bit,” Nakanishi said of the 2nd half dominance in the paint. 

HPU, the top statistical defense in the PacWest going into the night according to points per game allowed, flexed that defensive might as they held Chaminade to four points over the final 3:37 to close out the win on Senior Night, 77-72. 

Chaminade was led by Wyatt Lowell’s 18 points as the senior forward went 3-of-8 from distance in the loss. Ross Reeves finished with 15 points, being held to just two after halftime as the Sharks keyed in on the standout sophomore. Isaac Amaral-Artharee ended his Chaminade Silverswords career with a 10-point outing, bringing his career total to 1,732 points and placing him second all-time in program scoring history. 

Hawai’i Pacific’s Maj Dusanic paced the Sharks with 18 points and 11 rebounds, tallying his third double-double of the season as the forward shot 9-of-10 from the floor. Diggy Winbush added 17 points while tying a season-best seven assists for HPU while Melo Sanchez and Matt Van Komen each chipped in 12 points in the victory. 

The loss ends an injury-riddled season for the Chaminade Silverswords, who finished the year at 10-18 overall and just 6-14 in PacWest play. Junior guard and third-leading scorer Jamir Thomas missed the final eight games of the season for Chaminade after tallying 11.6 points per game across 20 contests. 

“It felt good to get the win but not our best performance,” Nakanishi gave as an evaluation of the night. “[Chaminade]’s a tough team. They’ve got playmakers and they’ve got shot makers.” 

Hawai’i Pacific still has one more regular season game to play, visiting the University of Hawai’i-Hilo on Saturday before preparing for a long-awaited return to the conference tournament. The Sharks will look for a season sweep over UH-Hilo, who has also clinched a spot in next week’s PacWest tournament and is battling with Biola for the rights to the fourth seed over the fifth seed. 

HPU locked themselves into the third seed ahead of next week’s PacWest Tournament in San Diego, California with the win, regardless of Saturday’s result against the University of Hawai’i-Hilo.  

“I’m very proud of our guys,” Nakanishi said of clinching the PacWest’s three-seed. “It does mean a lot that we can get in the conference tournament and not just squeeze in there … we fell short of winning a regular-season championship, but we’ve got as good chance as anybody to go win it in the [PacWest] tournament.”