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by Ikena Du Pont and Tiffany Garrett

 

The Sea Warriors will play nine games on the road trip against Central Washington University and St. Martin’s College from March 26-April 1.

Head Coach Garret Yukumoto is optimistic after his squad took five of eight games from visiting Grand Canyon University in a series played from March 4-7 at Hans L’Orange Park in Waipahu.
“ As we go on the road, hopefully we’ll treat this as a business trip,” he said. “If we go up there and play the same great baseball, hopefully we can compete.”

Yukumoto, a former HPU standout, is in his first year as head coach for the Sea Warriors as they work through a tough 2006 schedule. He hopes to use his baseball experience to enhance the team’s level of play on the field. Yukumoto, 34, is also the vice-principal at Leilehua high school, and he wants to use his teaching and administration experience to increase the team’s academic standards and success.

Yukumoto played baseball at Aiea high school and played his next three years at Portland State University. He transferred in 1991 to HPU where he used his last two years of eligibility playing outfield and first base for the Sea Warriors.

He was an assistant coach at Aiea in 1993 when they took second place in the O‘ahu Interscholastic Association. The next year he came back to HPU as an assistant coach for former Head Coach David “Boy” Eldredge. In 1995 he went to Leilehua High School as an assistant coach and then became head coach in 1999. He led the Mules to OIA championships in 2000 and 2004.

“ I think I bring a different vision and philosophy to the team,” said Yukumoto. “I try to tie more academics to the program.”

Yukumoto realizes that NCAA play has more responsibilities and rules compared to high school, but he is ready to take on the challenge which also includes recruiting, scheduling, and academics.

The biggest advantage that he has with this year’s team is 10 returning seniors. He identified several players that he feels have the leadership and experience necessary to make this team successful. Gavin Conception, Jherell Miller, Mario Ramirez, Grandon Costa, and Tyler Jefferson will carry the leadership roles as the captains.

Ramirez, who is off to a great start with a 3-1 record, commented on the most important facet of the team’s experience. Most of the team, he said, “has already played with each other for at least one year, so as far as team chemistry goes… we already have it, so we can move forward to the important stuff.”

Yukumoto is supported by assistants who bring experience to the coaching staff. Gary Tokunaga, former Aiea high school assistant coach, will be in charge of the infield. Former University of Hawai‘i-Manoa teammates Matt Apana and Tyler Cheff will work with the pitchers and catchers respectively. The outfield will be handled by former HPU standout Ikaika Du Pont.

Yukumoto said, “Our coaches bring a different perspective to the program. They also give us more knowledge, excitement, and motivation.”

“ We have a lot of depth on this year’s pitching staff,” added Cruz Hatanaka, “We are more in shape, and this year we have pitchers, not throwers.”
 

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