They won’t count in the standings, but perhaps the Hawaii Stars’ most interesting games of the season will be July 4 and 5 against a ballclub of recently graduated high school players.
Former Waiakea ace Quintin Torres-Costa will get the start at 1:30 p.m. July 4 at Wong Stadium against the Stars, who will be on their bye week. A home run contest, which pits Waiakea soon-to-be senior Kean Wong, Warriors rising junior Kodi Medeiros and Hilo senior-to-be Chayce Kaaua against a few Stars, will kick off the festivities at noon.
The July 5 exhibition game will start at 5:35 p.m. Both games will be nine innings. Stars on-field consultant Kaha Wong said 500 tickets have already been sold, and all proceeds will go toward Little League Baseball.
“We’ll get a pretty good crowd,” he said. “The Hawaii Stars are doing us a huge favor. They’ve got some locals (Ronnie Loeffler, John Holley, Cortney Arruda, Michael Kenui and Reece Alnas) on their team. But we’ve got all the locals.”
Wong said the Big Island Interscholastic Federation had concerns about player eligibility, a reason Kean Wong, Medeiros and Kaaua — members of last summer’s Senior League World Series championship team — won’t play.
He noted that high school and collegiate golfers annually compete in major golf championships such as the U.S. Open and maintain their respective eligibility by designating an amateur status.
In any case, three other 2012 high school graduates — Honokaa’s Dylan Shiraki, Kamehameha-Hawaii’s Kaimana Moike and Hawaii Prep’s Jayse Bannister — will join Torres-Costa on the pitching staff. Position players include Waiakea’s Korin Medeiros, Hilo’s Keenan Nishioka, Kamehameha’s Gideon Kalili, and Honokaa’s Joey Charbonneau and Lloyd Edwards.
Matt Kiyota and Micah Ashburn, a pair of 2011 HPA graduates, Ekolu Martins (’11 Hilo), Taylor Goo (’11 Kamehameha) and Dorian Rivera (’10 Konawaena) round out the roster.
Most of the players will compete for a Big League ballclub headed to the state tournament, which will take place Friday through Sunday at Ala Wai Field on Oahu.
Torres-Costa has pitched against tough competition before, including last summer at the Senior League World Series and at the Firecracker Showcase, a high-level competition held in July in California.
“I’m looking forward to the level of competition, to see how we stack up against them,” said Torres-Costa, who has signed with Hawaii. “It’s a new experience and a learning experience. I learn something every day, what to do and what not to do. It’s another steppingstone.
“I know I have to keep the ball low and don’t leave it up in the middle of the strike zone. I have to trust my catcher’s pitch calling, whoever is behind the plate.”
Unlike Torres-Costa, who pitched Waiakea to the Division I state championship, Shiraki’s team didn’t qualify for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II tournament. Kamehameha and its ace, Kaimana Moike, eliminated Shiraki and the Dragons 2-1 in the BIIF semifinals.
Both Shiraki and Moike will head to Eastern Arizona College, a junior college, after another JC, Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas, folded its baseball program. The other Lon Morris players also found new homes. Charbonneau has an offer on the table from Luna Community College in New Mexico, and Bannister signed with Holy Names, along with Kiyota, Ashburn and recent Kamehameha graduate Nainoa Hart.
Holy Names will start its inaugural baseball season next year, joining the Pacific West Conference. Kiyota was at Regis University, a Division II school in Denver, and Ashburn was at Lon Morris. UH-Hilo and HPU, where Rivera signed to play, are PacWest members.
Shiraki and most of his teammates were practicing at Wong Stadium on Wednesday, gearing up for the Big League state tourney. And like Torres-Costa, the fellow lefty was ready to step to the plate and face independent professional ballplayers.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Shiraki said. “It’s a whole new level. We’ll try our best and try to give them a good game.”