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Honolulu Little League Softball Majors state champs preparing for West Regionals 

Honolulu Little League Softball Majors state champs preparing for West Regionals

By: Wes Nakama

For Little League Softball players across the nation, their World Series “field of dreams” is not in South Williamsport, Pa., like the boys, but rather in Greenville, N.C.

But either way, for the Honolulu Little League Softball Majors championship team the road to the World Series goes through San Bernardino, Calif., where it will be in two weeks to compete in the West Region tournament July 20-26. The winner of that tourney will advance to the Little League Softball World Series in Greenville.

“It’s gonna be challenging, but I feel like we can do it,” said Shelby Nagatori, a Honolulu pitcher from Hawai’i Kai and Mid-Pacific Institute. “I really want to make it to the World Series, so we can play on that big stage … I feel like our team is good enough to win.”

The San Bernardino Regional is a pretty big stage in itself, with all games being live streamed on ESPN+. The field includes champions from Arizona, Nevada, Northern California, Southern California and Utah. Honolulu’s first game will be at 1 p.m. July 21 against the winner of the July 20 game between Arizona and Nevada.

“It’s actually the toughest region (out of eight) to get out of,” said Honolulu manager James Lancaster, who watched his son Jaron navigate a similar journey on the Honolulu team that won the Little League Baseball World Series in 2022. 

Nagatori played on a team that won the Las Vegas Winter Classic twice, and she also competed in the Triple Crown World Series in Reno, Nev., last summer.

“I don’t think we placed (in Reno), but we did pretty good,” Nagatori said. “There were 16 (teams).”

As a pitcher, Nagatori will be backed up by a defense that features five players who were shortstops on their regular club or school  teams. Overall, nine of the 13 players attend either ‘Iolani, Kamehameha, Mid-Pacific or Punahou, which each have intermediate teams competing in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.

The five shortstops have been rotating at different positions, which is common practice for Little League all-star teams.

“They just gotta accept that you do what’s right for your team, to win,” said Lancaster, who added it was a similar situation with his son’s LLWS baseball team two years ago. “Coach Gerald (Oda) told them, you might be a shortstop (on your club or school team), but not today.”

These Honolulu Little League Softball players had only a few weeks — not months — to build team chemistry and get accustomed to their new roles. But Nagatori, who knew only a few of the girls prior to last month, said the team bonded quickly and did not take long to get acquainted. 

“They’re really nice people,” she said of her new teammates. “They’re really friendly.”

Kelsie Shibata, a pitcher/infielder, also said the teammates became quick friends.

“To be honest, (on) the first day, I feel like a lot of us got close,” said Shibata, who will be an eighth-grader at ‘Iolani. “Even on the tryout day. We definitely have a strong bond now, as a team.”

That bond was solidified last month in Kailua-Kona, where the team won the state tournament and punched its ticket for San Bernardino.

“We actually knew just by watching them work together, that they were going to do well in the state tournament,” Lancaster said. “They looked like they were bonding, so we knew we had a chance. I think the team bonded well there, but they’re thing was just business: take care of business, and get to San Bernardino. They were only focusing on that.”

The reward — besides the trip to California to compete against some of the top teams in the West — is an opportunity to represent Hawai’i on the Regional stage. The last time a team from the islands won the West Region and advanced to the Little League Softball World Series was in 2019, when Honolulu was led by recent Maryknoll standout and incoming University of Arizona recruit Jenna Sniffen. 

“It’s an honor,” Shibata said, “and we’ll all do our best to show that Hawai’i can compete in softball.” 

Little League Softball will cover the team’s travel and lodging, but Lancaster said other costs (e.g. travel sports gear, various road expenses, etc.) are not covered. A gofundme account has been established to assist the team and can be accessed via this link:

Fundraiser by James Lancaster : Boost The Honolulu Little League Softball team to Victory! (gofundme.com)

Lancaster said supporting the team in its journey can be costly, “but it’s worth it.”

“It’s once in a lifetime,” he said. “The kids are only this age once.”

Lancaster said he and the team appreciate the support and he knows Hawai’i fans will be behind them in San Bernardino, both in person in the stands, and watching on livestream.

“Hawai’i is strong,” Lancaster said. “We always bring it.”

Honolulu Little League Softball Majors Champion

Players: Keola Ah Wong, Skylea Iwamoto-Hauki, Aliya Kagami, Kyla Katekaru, Izabella Kodama, Teani Kolone-Rementer, Eysha Lancaster, Skyla-Kruse Moniz-Faalafua, Shelby Nagatori, Taryn Nakamoto, Lani Neal, Kelsie Shibata, Jamie Shimokawa

Manager: James Lancaster

Coaches: Earl Pfeiffer, Jr., Reid Shimokawa