Cougars Begin State Title Quest On Hans L’Orange Field

Kaiser High School’s youthful roster masks a team that already has been through the wars to some degree.

Scan the Cougar resume as the team awaits this week’s Division state baseball tournament – it’s had as many close encounters as any school in the 12-team field.

“These kids never give up,” third-year head coach Mark Rasmussen said. “They practice hard and play hard. Even though they’re young, they’ve been put in situations this season that they hadn’t been put in before.

“Everything they’re doing now is a bonus for them, and it’s going to make it easier for the young guys next year.”

The team has only three seniors; the bulk of the roster is comprised of 11 sophomores.

The numbers that count most, however, may be the 4-1 mark in games decided by one run or less. Kaiser was to take a 10-6 overall record into their first-round game Tuesday. Pairings for the state tournament, which runs through Friday night, were to be revealed late on Sunday.

Tuesday’s Kaiser game was to be played at Hans L’Orange Park in Waipahu, with the rest of the tournament at Les Murakami Stadium at UH Manoa.

Rasmussen was awaiting the tournament’s pairings before deciding on a starter, but he was expecting to go with either Royce Kuromoto or Jordan Alcoran on Tuesday. Both are seniors. The player not starting Tuesday will get the call Wednesday, should the Cougars advance.

Kuromoto was the winner in Kaiser’s 6-1 victory over Campbell in the OIA quarterfinals, a game Rasmussen terms “our biggest game of the year (so far).

“He brings experience – he’s been on the varsity three years now – and he leads by example with his hard work.

“Jordan has been our No. 1 pitcher.”

Behind the plate, junior Makana Lyman also has had a stellar season, according to Rasmussen.

“Even older guys respect him. He’s taken on the role of a leader for most of the season.”

Senior Tyler Lau, junior Jake Torigoe and sophomore Kelan Yoshioka also have been impact players.

“Tyler played every game as our No. 2 hitter, and he’s been pretty consistent. Jake is probably the hardest worker on the team. He’s an awesome kid to coach and one of our leading hitters. His brother, Joey, also plays for us.

“Kelan is only a sophomore, but he’s one of our better hitters and we’ve been using him as our closer,” he added of Yoshioka. “He’s gained a lot of experience this year already.”

Kaiser’s trend of playing close games is likely to continue with the best teams in the state assembled this week. If the Cougar pitching staff can hold its own, it may all come down to offensive production.

“We haven’t always been consistent, but we’ve gotten big hits in clutch situations for the most part.”

Kaiser is making its second state tournament appearance in three years, after missing the field a year ago.