Falcons Using Summer League To Hone Baseball Skills

The road to a Kalani championship baseball season next spring must pass through Yakima, Wash., in the coming weeks.

The Falcons, who recently began their American Legion League summer season, will take a break from league play to participate in Yakima’s Bob Garretson Sr. Memorial Tournament June 18-21, competing in the under-19 division. But on its roster are the players projected to play varsity next spring.

The tournament is known to attract college coaches and scouts, but Kalani coach Don Omura said increasing cohesiveness was a big factor in organizing the trip.

“Traveling together and playing together more should help them become closer,” he said. “We preach taking care of your job first and then being able to help others. We’re really trying to instill that in this group.”

Kalani was 1-2 in ALL play at press time, beating Mid-Pacific’s White team and losing to Waipahu and Mid-Pac’s Green team.

The Falcons hope to build off of spring, when they went 7-5 in the ultra-competitive OIA East. They fell short of making the Division I state tournament, losing to Campbell and Pearl City in the OIA tourney, but figure to have one of the state’s most experienced teams next spring.

Returnees include senior-to-be pitcher Reece Kakugawa, recently named to the First Team All-Stars in a vote of East coaches.

“He’s definitely in good shape, and he’s beginning to refine himself as a pitcher,” Omura said. “He’s a hard guy to score on. He has good stuff and good movement. He’s going to be a big part of our team next year.”

Omura also expects senior pitcher/utility player Jarryn Wee to be a team leader this summer. “This will be an important summer for him, as far as taking it to the next level,” he said of Wee, who was named a Second Team All-Star. “He’s already hitting the ball with more authority.”

Juniors Hunter Lau (3B/2B) and Bronson Matsumoto (C) also should have key roles with a number of underclassmen poised for more playing time.

“Our junior and sophomore classes are deep,” said Omura, who is an assistant to Kalani head coach Shannon Hirai in the spring. “A lot of those guys are going to contribute next year.”

Defense and pitching have been Kalani’s forte to date. “I like where we’re at, defensively. Pitching-wise, we have Reece, obviously. We’re deep there — we just need them to get to that next level. When you have two or three dominant pitchers, it makes a big difference.”

Offensively, the Falcons had a spring batting average of .275, good for seventh best in the state among Division I schools. “Hitting is the area we really need to focus on,” Omura said. “We need to be a .300-plus hitting team.”

Kalani resumes its ALL slate at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Kahala Field hosting Farrington.

The summer schedule will include 20 regular-season games. The team needs to finish in the top eight to advance to the ALL playoffs, which will begin July 22.

Hawaii’s American Legion League state champion will qualify for the Western Regionals in Boulder, Colo.