Waiakea seniors Trayden Tamiya, Casey Yamauchi, Brandee Chinen, and Kaelyn Uchida all decided to stay home and play their respective sport at UH-Hilo, bringing a winning pedigree and sharing a connection to the school.
Tamiya and Yamauchi recently signed national letters of intent to play baseball, Chinen for softball and Uchida for golf, boosting the number of homegrown products and just needing to move up the street after graduation.
Cross country, women’s tennis, and volleyball are the only UHH sports, out of 12, that don’t feature any former BIIF players.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to play for the hometown Vulcans,” said Tamiya, who carries a 4.0 GPA and is undecided on a major. “I like the fact that they’re starting to recruit more local players.”
Tamiya turned down Division I Northern Colorado, where 2006 Waiakea graduate Kainoa Correa is an assistant, and several prominent Division III schools in Puget Sound, Whitworth, and George Fox.
For all of his life, the sure-handed shortstop has fielded the question: Are you related to Earl Tamiya?
Well, that’s his grandfather, who’s the longtime UHH men’s golf coach.
The Kevin Bacon six degrees of separation extends to Troy Tamiya, Trayden’s dad. He’s Uchida’s personal swing coach.
“My papa (Earl Tamiya) has been my inspiration. He’s been there with me every step of the way in my baseball career and pushes me to be the best I can possibly be,” Trayden said.
Uchida points to her sister and competitive partner Lacey Uchida, a Waiakea freshman, for pushing her and coach Troy Tamiya.
“My sister Lacey is always working hard every day at the course, and her determination inspires others around her to work hard as well,” Uchida said. “He’s helped me so much with my game and always believed in me.
“He taught me that excellence is never an accident. It’s always a result of high intentions and sincere effort. Without my sister and coach, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Uchida, who has a 3.5 GPA, will major in nursing and hopes to graduate in four years.
Like Tamiya, Yamauchi and Chinen grew up around the Vulcans, and they felt the lure to play in front of family and friends.
Yamauchi, who has a 3.8 GPA, plans to major in kinesiology and pursue a career in paramedics or baseball in Japan.
His dad Wayne Yamauchi runs the Nobu Yamauchi RBI baseball and softball programs, where lifetime memories are made.
For the Waiakea third baseman with the uncanny bat control, his dad is Casey at the Bat — without the mighty strikeout.
“My biggest inspiration, as well as influence, is my father because of his legacy as a hitter and ability to hit balls into Suisan,” Yamauchi said.
Last season, Chinen led the Warriors with a .561 batting average and was major production threat with a 1.491 OPS, getting on base and driving in runs.
It wasn’t by accident because the second baseman tore up HHSAA Division I pitching, too.
At states, Chinen went a combined 5 for 9 against Kamehameha-Kapalama, Maui, and Maryknoll, keeping pace with Skylar Thomas, who went 4 for 10 with six RBIs, and is also at UHH.
Chinen had offers from Kentucky State and several junior colleges but contacted UHH coach Callen Perreira and decided to stay home.
“I’m excited to play with Skylar, again, who is like a sister to me and playing with girls from different states,” said Chinen, who has a 4.0 GPA and plans to major in biology with a career as a pediatric oncologist in mind.
“Two people who inspire me are UHH assistant Fred Entilla and my papa Apitai Akau. They are the ones I continuously work hard for. I play for them each and every single game, and I want to make them proud. They support me so much. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.”
Local Four gold
It’s not true that Waiakea wins a BIIF title every season. It may only seem that way. But the Local Four Warriors have been surrounded by success.
Since 2012, when the Warriors won the Division I state baseball championship, they have seized the league crown in even-numbered years, sharing the spotlight with archrival Hilo.
Last season, Waiakea finished second to Maui for the state title but during the summer Tamiya, Yamauchi, and Jamieson Hirayama, who’s also at UHH, made history.
They were on the first Nobu Yamauchi RBI Senior (ages 19 and under) team that won the World Series crown in the 25th anniversary.
In Yamauchi’s mind, no goal is an impossible dream.
“For my senior year, I want to enjoy my last year with my friends and teammates and win a state title,” he said. “As for UHH, I plan to give my best abilities for a winning record and a new era of Vulcan baseball.”
Yamauchi knows his history that UHH is holding collegiate baseball’s longest losing streak at 25 years, covering the NCAA Division I, II, and NAIA levels.
Like Casey at the Bat, Tamiya is swinging for the fences.
“My goal for UHH is to contribute to the team and help the team get to the postseason,” said Tamiya, who also hungers for another chance at a state title.
The last time the Vulcans reached the postseason was in 1994. Back then, the NAIA District 29 playoffs consisted of two teams, UHH and Hawaii Pacific. HPU won that year.
The Waiakea girls have pocketed 13 of the last 14 BIIF golf titles. Hilo interrupted the streak in 2014.
When Uchida hops aboard UHH coach Jim DeMello’s squad, 2014 Waiakea senior Andi Igawa will have expired her eligibility, but Keely Kitamura, a 2015 Waiakea graduate, will still be there.
Also at UHH is Anela Dalton, a 2017 Keaau graduate, who will be another familiar face from BIIF competition.
“I’ve always wanted to stay home, and I only wrote to coach Jim because I only had interest in playing for UHH,” Uchida said. “One of the best things is that my teammates will be people who I’ve golfed with before.”
Chinen has only experienced success at Waiakea, which has captured the last three BIIF titles.
It’s the same thing at UHH, where the softball program is the shining jewel. The Vuls last appeared in the postseason in 2013.
Chinen is not a home-run hitter, but she connected and hit a grand slam on the best part about staying at home.
“I am truly grateful and words can’t even express how thankful and excited I am to attend UHH to study and play college ball,” she said. “I get to play in front of my family and friends who support and love me the most. I hope to make all of them proud.”