LAHAINA - Despite disappointing finishes in his first three seasons at the helm of the Lahainaluna High School baseball team, Manu Kenolio stays the course to return the program to the status of years gone by, when the Lunas were consistent contenders for Maui Interscholastic League supremacy.
Coach Kenolio is a grinder - a man that is so dedicated to West Side diamond games over recent decades that he has literally spent more time at the Lahaina Recreation Center fields and up at the school campus baseball practice facility project than at home across the street.
Along with his trusty sidekick, Darren Opunui, Coach K has dedicated his life to youth baseball here on the West Side, giving his time to West Maui Little League and to the Luna program.
The Lahainaluna High School baseball team played King Kekaulike on March 21. PHOTOS BY GLEN PASCUAL.?
He not only coaches but also works long hours in building and maintaining first the Little League fields during his tenure at that level, and currently with the practice diamond nearing completion on the Lahainaluna campus.
But, as the old saying goes, "You can lead the horses to water, but you can't make them drink."
As the first pitches were being thrown to start the 2017 MIL season, the prospects for the Lunas, with a solid lineup of returning student athletes, were favorable. But academic attrition and injuries bit into the roster and left but one senior and one junior in the starting nine.
The rest of the lineup has been filled with sophomores and three freshmen; and, as would be expected, the Lunas have taken their lumps, finishing the regular season winless in 12 games.
Undaunted, the team, led by Kenolio, Opunui and the coaching staff of Timmy Acpal, Brian Anderson and Harry Flores, continues forward into the MIL playoffs set for next week, April 12-15, at Maehara Stadium in Wailuku.
"We've been able to hit the ball, but we've also made some crucial errors," Kenolio explained last week from the dugout at the LRC field.
"And we went for several weeks with only nine eligible players, so that hurt us. Our pitchers are young and inexperienced, but we are looking forward to next year and working to finish the practice field up at the school that will really help us."
Enele Scanlan is the lone senior on the roster, with juniors Raige Bush, Mason Arruda, Nainoa Ko, Jaiven Kanaha and Taylor Salmon set to return for next season.
The standout sophomore group includes Kamalei Watson, Logan Kalawaia, Jay-Z Paleka Wright, Kamahao Acpal, Kainalu Kaililaau, Koi Kekona, Micah Takatani Apo and Koapaka Purdy.
First-year players include Kamaka Ko, Anu McCabe, and Kamu Kanaha. Malia Kaufonoga and Hiilei Peneku are the team managers.
Coach Kenolio expressed the team's gratitude for the help received in bringing a batting cage and an outfield fence to the campus facility.
"The Lahainaluna High School Foundation has been very supportive of the practice field effort, and Gary Gatiuan (the former Lunas' baseball coach) has been a big help with the batting cage. Also, thank you to Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch and Auntie Rae Matsumoto for their guidance with the paperwork, and to Dave Mello and Susan Stailey of Roundtable Pizza for their fundraising support for the team."