Error-plagued Falcons Balanced By Strong Pitching Staff

As the Kalani High School baseball team reached the midway point of its Oahu Interscholastic Association slate, it had clearly earned a reputation as the league’s “hard-luck” team.

The Falcons were 2-5 through seven games with four of their five setbacks having come by one run, including losses to Moanalua High(4-3), Roosevelt High (3-2) and a pair to the Kailua Surfriders (4-3 and 3-2).

“We could be 6-0 or 7-0 with a hit here or a play made there,” said longtime coach Shannon Hirai. “Winning the second game against Roosevelt was big for us. We finally won a close game, and we’re hoping that carries on.”

Perhaps no team has played a more demanding schedule than the Falcons, who traveled to California last month for a four-game stretch against top-level Mainland programs, in addition to meeting Moanalua and Kailua early on.

With three sophomores in the lineup, Kalani also features one of the league’s youngest teams, so the near-misses against the league elite are a good sign for the future, he believes.

Self-imposed miscues have been their Achilles heel to date.

“We’ve made a whole bunch of errors,” said Hirai, whose team’s wins came against Kahuku (4-0) and Roosevelt (4-3). “I feel for our two (regular) starters, Brandon Valenzuela and Brandon Medeiros. They’ve pitched well enough to win. They’ve pretty much been throwing complete games every time out.”

This week, the Falcons have a break from games. They were to play a makeup game late last week against the Kahuku Red Raiders and then a double-header against rival Kaiser on Saturday. The team returns to action April 12 and 13 for a pair of games against the Castle Knights.

All of those games should figure huge in the playoff hopes and seeding for the upcoming OIA post-season. Through seven games, Castle and Kalani were tied in the standings at 2-5 ahead of then-still-winless Kahuku in the playoff picture. (The top six teams from both the East and West make the OIA tournament.)

“We’re going through some growing pains, but this is a really hard-working group that gets along well,” added Hirai. “They’re disappointed that our record doesn’t show how good of a team we are.”

Offensively, the Falcons are due for a breakthrough, he said.

“Our team average is down a little right now – we’ve hit the ball hard at times, but right at people,” Hirai said.

“We’re getting our opportunities. Our California trip helped a lot. We faced three or four Division I (major college) signees who are pitchers up there, and that gave us some confidence.

“Right now, Royce (Yamamoto) and Chase (Sumida) have been our most consistent hitters, along with Sean Romo.”