Lady Cougars Excel At Softball After Moving Up To DI

The DII to DI transition doesn’t always bring victories. But Kaiser’s softball team is an exception; after advancing to the OIA White title game last year, it moved up to DI this spring.

“We chose to come up to see how good we really are,” said head coach Mitch Matsumoto, “and the kids actually moved us up (with their play).”

Their faith has been justified, following an impressive 5-1 start, and they’re thinking of bigger and better things as post-season nears. The only setback was to Moanalua March 22 in a split double-header.

“The pressure is on both of us to keep winning,” he said. “This is exactly where we wanted to be at this time. Our pitching and defense have been great, and with the way Kai (Hasegawa) has been hitting, our offense is really good, too.

“We have no high-maintenance kids on the team. They’re all contributing – each and every one of them.”

Kaiser’s strong start is more impressive given its young roster, with only two seniors: right fielder Bailey Gongob and second baseman Kimberly Dilda.

“They’re both good academically, and they are our team captains. Bailey hits the ball well and she’s made some big throws and some big plays. Overall, she’s a good kid who really loves the game. Kimberly is one of the steady players we’ve always had on defense.”

Hasegawa’s having a breakout year at the plate and in the outfield. “She’s really turned it on. She’s played really well and is one of our leading hitters.”

Sophomore first baseman Marissa Oda also figures big in their success, including a three-RBI effort in the Moanalua win. “She was injured most of last year and during the summer, but she’s been doing really well,” Matsumoto noted.

Sophomore pitchers Crystal Ching-Lake and Seli Aholelei also are paying huge dividends. “They’re totally different, but effective. Crystal has more movement on her pitches, while Seli is like a power pitcher.”

Ching-Lake was injured after taking a line drive to the leg, but was expected to return for last weekend’s game against Kahuku.

Kaiser will host Kailua in a key game at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The Cougars won the first one between the two, 5-3, on March 10. “I expect them (Kailua) to really bring their ‘A’ game. I have a lot of respect for their players and their coach.”

Kaiser also plays Roosevelt April 15 at home and Castle April 19 away to close out the season. The OIA Red tourney is April 23-26 with the top six teams earning berths for the DI state tourney May 6-9.