Falcon Baseball Challenge: Looking For A Few More Hits

Tough times can make tough teams, and Kalani is hoping there’s truth to that old adage this spring. Indeed, perhaps no baseball team in the state has known more heartbreak than the Falcons, who lost four games by a total of six runs during the first half of their OIA Red East slate.

“It’s been a strange year,” head coach Shannon Hirai admitted. “We’ve been one of the hard-luck teams. We just need to get a few breaks, and things can change totally.”

It entered last weekend as arguably the best 2-5 team in the state, given the balance throughout the East. Kalani lost a pair of hard-fought games with Castle, dropping a 2-0 decision on opening day as well as a 3-2 defeat last week. It also was only a couple plays away from a better fate in road losses to Kaiser (4-3) and Kailua (6-4).

“Every game is competitive in the league,” Hirai said. “Hopefully, we can get on a roll. This is a great group to coach; they’re talented. They just haven’t had many things go their way.”

The team still held a two-game lead over then-winless Kalaheo for the sixth playoff spot in the East. Except for first-place Castle, unbeaten through its first seven games, the rest of the league is closely linked, with Kaiser, Kailua, Roosevelt and Moanalua just ahead of Kalani in the standings.

Kalani returns to action this week with key games versus Roosevelt at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and versus Kailua at 11 a.m. Saturday. As in the season’s first half, Hirai looks for his talented pitching staff to lead the way.

Junior Dallas Asuncion and freshman Reece Kakugawa are likely starters this week. “Dallas keeps us in games,” Hirai said. “He can be a little wild (on his throws) at times, but somehow he gets out of trouble. Reece is one of our harder throwers, and he’s been throwing strikes. Against Castle, he had seven strike-outs and gave up only four hits.

“Our pitching has kept us in games and given us a chance. We’ve had the lead in most games – we just haven’t been able to hold on. Our defense has kind of failed us at times, although we’ve gotten better the last few games. We’re not throwing the ball around as much. I think we can play with anyone when we’re on.”

Offensively, they’re still waiting for a break-out game. “We haven’t been hitting the ball real well. If that can change, we’ll be on our way to having a great season.” Among the bright spots at the plate has been senior Roosevelt transfer Kaluna Kamakawiwo’ole. “He’s come up with some clutch hits to help keep us in games.” He had the game-winning hit March 8 over his former teammates in Kalani’s 7-5 win over the Rough Riders.

Hirai also hopes designated hitter Shaye Matsumoto can return to 100 percent. He’s been bothered by a hamstring injury and is listed this week as dayto-day.

Kalani closes out its season next week with a pair of road games against Kalaheo April 10 and Moanalua April 13.