HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL
Nissan gives new tourney its wheels
Oahu's top high school senior softball players open play tomorrow in the inaugural New City Nissan Softball Classic, a marathon two-day, four-team bonanza.
Tournament organizer John Uekawa can hardly wait until tomorrow morning.
"When we presented the uniforms, you should've seen the gleam in their eyes. We didn't want them to feel like it was just another game," he said.
The tourney, sanctioned by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, Interscholastic League of Honolulu and Oahu Interscholastic Association, is proof that it's good to have goals.
"In actuality, it was just a dream. It was our premise that after 10 years in business, we wanted to give back to the community," said Uekawa, who is part-owner and president of New City Nissan. The company did the legwork, accepting applicants and providing top-grade uniforms for all players.
Uekawa sees the tournament as an outgrowth of existing efforts.
"It started with volleyball (state) tournaments," he said of the company's most prominent sports sponsorship to date. Filling the void in softball is giving Uekawa a thrill. The tournament is believed to be the first postseason exhibition for softball.
"I feel unbelievable. Everybody's wanted to do it, but it never happened," he said.
The tournament will be played at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium all day tomorrow. The round-robin format begins at 9 a.m. The final game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Tuesday's finals doubleheader at Central Oahu Regional Park begins at 5 p.m.
All admission is free.
Team Armada, led by coach Bernard Victor of Kailua, features Corrie Nishikida of Pearl City. The right-hander won three games during the state tourney as the Chargers won the title.
Team Titan is guided by Jon Berinobis of Castle. Among his players is Anita Manuma of Campbell, the OIA Red West Division player of the year.
Mid-Pacific's Willie Quinn is the coach of Team Quest. His players include ace pitcher Noe Esperas of Kamehameha, versatile and speedy Marina Gusman-Brown of Pearl City and infielder Dana Lee of Mililani. Kimberly Goo, also of Mililani and one of the top shortstops in the OIA, is also with Quest.
Kamehameha coach Ty Sing Chow is the manager of Team Maxima. Slugger Cristen Aona of Punahou and hurler Tajia Acierto of Kapolei are in the lineup. So is Nanakuli's Vernadine Vickers, listed as an outfielder for the tournament. Vickers is a first-team OIA Red West shortstop.
Maxima also features OIA Red East player of the year Michal Pane'e of Castle.
A panel selected the 52 players from a list of 70 seniors. Uekawa stayed out of the selection process.
"It was a very difficult task for the committee. The main thing I wanted was to see each school (in the ILH and OIA) represented by at least one player," he said, noting that Kalani and McKinley had no seniors this year.
"Keith Amemiya (of the HHSAA) assisted me and spearheaded most of the stuff, and Don Botelho (of the ILH) was more than happy, too, because he saw the positives," Uekawa said.
"Dwight Toyama (of the OIA) was instrumental. Every time I spoke, in case there was anything I'd forgotten, he was right there at my side. We had plenty of help."