Chaminade competes, never retreats in first full season in over 40 years

Chaminade competes, never retreats in first full season in over 40 years

Chaminade competes, never retreats in first full season in 40 years

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED APR 29, 2024

HONOLULU – Following a weekend that saw rival HPU sweep them, the Chaminade Silverswords had smiles on their faces. 

On Senior Night, the team celebrated a pair of seniors that had a bit of a different experience through their final year of eligibility. No, they hadn’t helped them win the game that night, but the team relished the opportunity to be out on the field together playing baseball. 

The final record for the Silverswords is an uninspiring one at first glance, an expected casualty of a program in phase one of a total rebuild after more than four decades away from the diamond. Upon further inspection, it’s easy to see how Chad Konishi’s team has built a foundation for the future. 

“Really proud of [the team’s] efforts. I tell people that I don’t think our record is indicative of how hard we played,” the first-year skipper for the Swords said after Chaminade’s Senior Night game. “Success isn’t built on one-year wins and losses. I think the experience that the young kids got, the [Junior College] kids taking it to the next level, all that kind of stuff [is important].” 

Built up of 26 first-year college athletes, a various number of transfers and a few local boys returning to suit up for baseball in Hawai’i once again, the Swords scratched across 15 wins while providing plenty of scares to other teams – including the University of Hawai’i during a 2-0 loss on April 16 at Les Murakami Stadium where the Chaminade pitching staff only allowed four hits all night. While Konishi’s hope was to eclipse the 20-win threshold, struggles closing out close games crushed those chances as CUH fell 12 times by two runs or fewer with nine of those losses coming by a single run. 

Typically, “experience” for young players at each level includes a fair share of mistakes. This year’s edition of the Silverswords were no different as they tied with UH-Hilo for the most errors committed in the PacWest this season with 84 blunders while the youthful pitching staff allowed a league-high 286 earned runs across 48 contests as they worked on honing their craft. 

“Could we work smarter? Yeah, but I was really proud of their competitiveness. Some days we lacked execution, some days we didn’t,” Konishi reflected. 

The seeds for success are sprinkled all throughout the season for Chaminade, who tied for the least amount of total home runs allowed this season with just 27 long balls against the Swords’ staff. The offense of the Swords, while lacking power, was built upon patience, finishing the season with the 3rd-most walks drawn by any team in the conference. 

“We don’t have our own field, we practice at the Ala Wai and not one day did [the team] ever complain practicing there or whatever,” Konishi proudly said of his team. “They showed up early in the mornings for practice, they worked hard.” 

That hard work didn’t come accidentally. A sizable portion of the Chaminade roster felt overlooked or underrecruited, coming to put on the blue and white for an opportunity to prove themselves at the next level, either from JUCO or high school. With them, Konishi needed some senior leadership for his foundational team. He found exactly that when Kailua product and Cal State Fullerton transfer JT Navyac gave Konishi and staff a chance to help him close out his college career at home. The pitcher/infielder spent three seasons in California, appearing in 102 games before joining the Silverswords’ historic first group back on the field for his final year of eligibility. 

He gave eight games of pitching to the Swords while appearing in the field for 44 total contests, racking up 36 hits at the plate. Playing one final time at home inside the friendly confines of Les Murakami Stadium, Navyac twirled a 1-2-3 inning with three strikeouts in his final pitching appearance and recorded an RBI single in his final at-bat. 

Navyac said the highlight of the season for himself came during those final seven frames against HPU. 

“Being able to start, get three strikeouts and then my last at-bat having an RBI single is awesome,” the senior said. “Being able to play in front of my family and friends was awesome. Coach Chad [Konishi] gave me the opportunity and I thought ‘why not?’ and I had a great time. We improved a lot, had fun and as a first-year program I think we made a lot of steps forward. A lot of things to work on and understand but I think there’s a good future for Chaminade.” 

Konishi acknowledged it being important to bring the utility man home for the future of the program, even if it only meant one year of having Navyac on the roster. The longtime baseball coach was extremely thankful that the Saint Louis alum gave his program a chance over other local competitors HPU and UH-Hilo. The veteran leadership of Navyac allowed for continued growth of three high-school shortstops into a first year of college by showing them the right way to go about their business on and off the field. 

Chaminade’s other senior, Haruki Kitazaki, was an example of taking your chance and running with it after he worked his way into the lineup midseason and never let go of the spot. After originally being on the block to not travel with the team, Kitazaki changed his season at Biola with a 2-for-4 day at the plate and a run scored in the second game of a doubleheader, starting the final 12 games of the year after that performance. 

“His time came up and he was put into the lineup, and he started to have some success. He hadn’t come out of the lineup until we took him out in honor of his senior inning,” Konishi shined about Kitazaki. “[Navyac and Kitazaki] couldn’t be two better kids that played for us for one year … [we were] fortunate enough to have both of them.” 

While the two leaders will graduate and move on, Chaminade returns multiple intriguing pieces such as first-year catcher Joe DeCoeur, who smacked a solo homerun out of Les Murakami Stadium’s confines in the Swords’ season-ending double-header against Hawai’i Pacific for his first long ball of the year. Fellow first-year Evon Williams showed glimmers of potential at third base and at the plate with hits in five of his final eight games. On the mound, first-year right-hander Rhyn Chambers “emerged” as a standout with a 1.66 ERA, allowing just 11 hits to 26 strikeouts across 16 appearances for the Silverswords. 

“I think the future is bright,” Konishi said. “I know we’re not there … we’re close but yet we’re not close, you know? I think we’re on our way, but we have to make some strides.” 

The head skipper pointed to the weight room as a key area for the Swords to invest time in during the offseason as the team hit a conference-low 12 home runs in 48 games. With more than 20 high-school players seeing considerable time in the field, Chaminade’s core was made up of a more youthful collection than opponents. 

A full offseason program for strength and conditioning for his young players will go a long way, says Konishi. With added strength and stamina, an already talented group looks to increase production and ranking among PacWest participants. 

“As I said in the beginning of the fall, I think putting a team out on the field was an accomplishment in itself,” Konishi stated. “We’re hoping that guys return and that they enjoy their experience here in Hawai’i, at school and the with program. We’ll start to fill in the holes that we think we need to replace.” 

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.” 

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 to continue paying tribute after tragedy with 12th annual “Kam’s Helmets Day”

HPU to continue paying tribute after tragedy with 12th annual “Kam’s Helmets Day”

HPU to continue paying tribute after tragedy with 12th annual “Kam’s Helmets Day”

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 19, 2024

HONOLULU – The Hawai’i Pacific University Sharks men’s basketball team will return home to the “Shark Tank” on Saturday afternoon, looking to bounce back from a heart-breaking 71-68 road loss to Chaminade while hosting rival-island foe UH-Hilo inside the former St. Francis’ gym in an important matchup of PacWest rivals. 

The game will serve for a much bigger purpose than a conference matchup though as it will be the program’s 12th annual “Kam’s Helmets Day” – meant to honor the memory of former Hawai’i Pacific University men’s basketball player Kameron Steinhoff, whose legacy continues to live on through an incredibly generous day of free skateboarding and bicycle helmets getting handed out to the public. 

“This is a special day for the Sharks family as we honor Kameron Steinhoff, a former standout member of our ‘ohana who passed in a tragic skateboarding accident back in 2011,” HPU head coach Jesse Nakanishi said to HSRN ahead of the game. “Our annual event aims to save lives by encouraging the use of helmets and what better way by giving out free helmets to kids! We’re very thankful for Leavitt, Yamane and Soldner group as well as TNT Tinting for their generous sponsorship of the event in providing the helmets.” 

Steinhoff was tragically lost in May of 2011 after suffering a severe head injury in a skateboarding accident in which he was not wearing a helmet, sending shockwaves through the community as a young, bright and talented soul was lost. The 2008 Punahou alum was the Hawai’i State Player of the Year his senior season and appeared in 51 games for HPU before his heart-breaking accident took his life at the age of 21. 

The Sharks will hand out 150 helmets on Saturday, thanks in part to the generosity of Leavitt, Yamane and Soldner Group and TNT Tinting, continuing the long-standing partnership with the Steinhoff Family and Hawaii Pacific that created “Kam’s Helmets” in the first place. In all, over 1,500 helmets have been donated to those in need around the community since 2011, promoting safety while being active. 

Families are invited to bring their kids to receive a free helmet at halftime in honor of Steinhoff’s legacy and enjoy a game between inter-island & PacWest rivals when the Sharks host the Vulcans at 2 p.m. HT inside the Shark Tank – located at the old St. Francis Gymnasium on 2707 Pāmoa Road, Honolulu, Hawai’i.