Falcons Open OIA Baseball Play After Challenging Preseason

The island’s prep baseball preseason may be shorter than what it once was, but Kalani head coach Shannon Hirai and his Falcon team still manage to cover a lot of ground, having played nine games through last week.

The byproduct of a condensed preseason is a shortage of practice time, however, to hear Hirai tell it.

“We’re fairly young, and we’ve played really well at times, and at other times we haven’t played too well,” he said. “We pretty much go straight into these tournaments.”

As in past years, the preseason slate also could be categorized as high-profile, with tournaments at Mid-Pacific Institute, Castle and Mililani high schools in recent weeks where they played some of the state’s best teams.

Among the schools Kalani played were Punahou, Saint Louis and Iolani, in addition to Kapolei, which features pitching ace Trey Kamachi, who was named Oahu Interscholastic Association Red West Player of the Year last spring.

“One of the positive things is that we look like we’re getting better each time we go out there,” Hirai explained. “We’ve been in games; we just haven’t always been able to finish. We’ve gone into the last three innings with the lead or tied and haven’t been able to hold on.

“Defensively, we went through a three-game stretch where we didn’t have an error.”

While it’s young overall, the Kalani lineup isn’t without veterans. Back in the fold are Jason Okimoto, Chase Sumida, Brandon Medeiros, Jarrin Nomura and Brandon Valenzuela.

Nomura, Medeiros and Valenzuela will all log innings on the mound.

“Brandon (Medeiros) has been pitching really well he has two complete games with a pitch count of only 80. Jarrin will be one of our guys out of the bullpen. He’s a lefty. We’re going to depend on him.

“Brandon (Valenzuela) is a returning starter who is coming off of an injury. He’s been doing well. We call him Fernando (after former Major League pitcher Fernando Valenzuela).”

Okimoto will help bolster the outfield, while Sumida moves from third base to catcher this season.

“Jason has some pretty good pop with the bat and pretty good speed,” continued the coach. “This is Chase’s third year starting for us he was our third baseman last year so he’s starting to feel comfortable at the varsity level.”

Hirai also is excited about a pair of newcomers in Kanoa Wong and Brandon Roberts. Wong transferred from Roosevelt, while Roberts played football and basketball for Kalani and decided to join the baseball program this spring.

“Both are good athletes who we’ve played at multiple positions. They both may pitch also.”

Kalani, which was to open its OIA season last Friday and Saturday with games versus the Moanalua Menehune, returns to action at 3:30 p.m. Thursday when it visits the Kahuku Red Raiders.

The teams meet again at Kahuku on Friday, also at 3:30. In addition, Hirai and the Falcons will travel to Southern California Saturday, where they will play four games in four days beginning next Monday.

Kalani has taken a Mainland trip every other year since 1997.

“The kids are excited,” Hirai said of the West Coast schedule. “It will be pretty much all baseball. (Playing California teams) shows our kids where they are as baseball goes. If our kids plan to play at the next level (and in college), they may see some of these guys later on.”

Kalani’s first game back on Oahu will be March 17, when it hosts the defending OIA Red champion Kailua Surfriders in a double-header.