Kalaheo Softball Hits Kauai

For the Kalaheo girls’ softball team, the road to a possible Oahu Interscholastic Association championship season passed through Kauai first.

The Mustangs visited the Garden Isle late last week to take part in the Kauai High School PreSeason Tournament in hopes of playing some of the top teams in the state. They were destined to not be disappointed on that note. In addition to their first-round pool-play games with Mililani and Lahainaluna, Kalaheo was guaranteed to play at least three other games within a field that also featured Pac-five, KamehamehaMaui, Kamehameha-Big Island, Iolani and host Kauai, among others.

“We have four seniors back, but we’re still young (overall) and we wanted to get the young ones baptized here (against toprate competition),” Kalaheo head coach John Spencer said. “We want to put them into situations so they know what to expect.”

Developing cohesiveness also was a high priority for making the trip, according to Spencer.

“We think we have a good bunch who can play well together,” he said.

Kalaheo is coming off a solid season last spring, having gone 8-6 overall (they were 5-4 versus OIA competition) en route to a berth in the New City Nissan Division II State Softball Tournament.

Key returnees include veterans Sarah Fitzherbert, Janica Dement and sisters Tuiai and Venise Elisara.

Fitzherbert, who will attend Northern Colorado next fall, was the workhorse on the mound for Kalaheo last year and is No. 1 in the rotation this time around. When not on the mound, she’ll be at second base.

“Her softball sense (is her strength),” Spencer said of Fitzherbert, who also is Kalaheo’s leadoff hitter. “She has real good command of her pitches. We look for good things from her.”

Spencer also is excited about Dement, who has the task of replacing Tiffany Harada, who completed her eligibility last spring after a fine career.

“Janica has come a long way since her ninth-grade year,” he said. “She hadn’t played much softball to that point, and she played behind Tiffany last year. She knew what she had to do to become the starter, and she’s proven to me that she can definitely take over the reins (at catcher). Her determination has been the key here (in her development).”

The Mustangs also should be tough up the middle, defensively, with Tuiai Elisara holding down a spot at second base and Venise Elisara at shortstop.

“Venise has a canon of an arm, and she’s a real aggressive player at that position,” Spencer said. “Tuiai has the same kind of ability, and she fields the ball well at second (base).”

Transfers Mahina Turner (Kailua) and Tiana Cocker (Castle) also are projected to be in the starting lineup at third base and first base, respectively, when Kalaheo plays its OIA White opener March 3 at Waialua.

“Mahina is an aggressive player and she has a good bat,” Spencer said of Turner. “Tiana’s been coming around as a pitcher, and she has a good bat also.”

On the heels of the opener at Waialua, Kalaheo will follow with road games March 6 (at McKinley) and March 10 (versus Waipahu). They play again at Aikahi Park March 13, when the Mustangs host Radford.