Cohesive Lady Mustangs Prepare For OIA Softball Playoffs

With an open date last weekend, the Kalaheo girls softball team took a much-needed break from the sport, but not from each other.

Team chemistry has been among the team’s strengths since the beginning of pre-season camp, and head coach John Spencer looked to solidify their cohesiveness. “We’ve rented a private home for the kids for the weekend,” he said. “We want to take their minds off of softball and make them hungry again.”

The Mustangs have reached the back end of their OIA Division II season slate in good shape, having taken an 8-3 record into the weekend. A road game with Radford at 10 a.m. Saturday is all that remains. If they can hold onto their second-place standing, they will be in line for a first-round bye for the OIA DII tournament.

The DII playoffs are April 30 to May 2. Kalaheo must finish among the top four in the White to ensure a berth in next month’s DII state tournament. The team is seeking its first state tournament appearance in softball since 2012, when they were DII runner-up to Nanakuli.

While preparing for the postseason, much emphasis at practice is on maximizing offensive production, according to Spencer. His team has emerged as one of the White’s most capable at the plate, topping the 10-run plateau in seven of its eight wins.

“What’s been really outstanding has been the hitting — that’s where we’ve excelled,” Spencer said. “When the lower half of the order starts hitting, everything starts to fall into place. Consistency in our hitting has put us in a good situation. We’ve been doing a lot of hitting drills. Hitting is always a key (in the playoffs), and we’re hoping it continues.”

Kalaheo’s exploits at the plate were evident in its sweep of Kahuku April 4. The Mustangs trailed late in both games before rallying to win by 4-3 and 11-1, respectively. All told, Kalaheo won eight of its last nine games.

They went 5-7 last year, their first time in DII since 2012, and have a young roster this spring. But leadership still has played a huge role behind seniors Jaquelyn Howard, Autumn Grant, Kylie Ishimaru and Brianna Gorgonio.

A four-year player, Howard has been the workhorse on the mound. “Jaquelyn has done a wonderful job — she’s kept us in games. She and the seniors have dedicated themselves to playing the best that they can this year, which is what they’ve been doing.”

Throughout the roster, Spencer is quick to add that he has a team “without one particular standout.”

“It’s really been a team effort, with everybody contributing when it counted,” he added. “I’m pretty happy with the team. We have an opportunity to close (the season) at 9-3, which will get us into the playoffs, obviously.”