Lady Mustangs Face Kahuku, Kailua In Softball Openers

The Kalaheo girls softball team won’t have to wait long to make an impact after being promoted to Division I in the off-season.

The Mustangs were to open their season Tuesday at Kahuku before turning their attention to a game with neighborhood rival Kailua at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Aikahi Park.

“They’re right next door – you can’t get any closer than we are – so it will be very, very interesting,” head coach John Spencer said. “We’ll be up against some good competition, but I think we’re good enough. (Moving up to DI) is a good thing for us, at this stage.”

Kalaheo went 12-6 overall last year and finished as the OIA Division II runner-up to Nanakuli. The Mustangs, who were to move on to the semifinals of the DII state softball tournament in the days that followed, won nine straight games at one point last season.

Spencer will build his current team around senior Mahina Turner and junior Kamele Kahanu. Both were regulars in the lineup last season and will be counted on to set the tone this time around. “Mahina’s a ‘player,’ ” Spencer said of Turner, who will play shortstop or third base when not the starting pitcher. “She’s taken on the role of leader and rightfully so since she has the most experience. She assumed that position on her own and leads by example. She’s taken control.”

Kahanu was a playmaker in center field this year, but is transitioning to the position of catcher this spring. “She’s taken up the challenge,” Spencer said. “She’ll do anything that you ask of her. She’s an athlete. She’s also a very good soccer player. She’s quick and will add a new dimension there (behind the plate).”

During preseason, Spencer regarded his team as one of generalists rather than specialists. “Because we’re so young, I like the ability of the kids to be able to play multiple positions. We used that as a gauge as we were concentrating on who would play where. We think we have it down now, but the proof in the pudding, so to speak, will come this week. We’ll be ready.”

Offensively, Kalaheo was one of the best in Division II last season, tallying an impressive 183 runs in 18 games. Maintaining the pace has been among the focal points of preseason. “We’ve been hitting a lot against ‘machine pitching’ as well as live pitching, and we’ve been making good contact and putting balls in play, which is what we want at this point. Kamele and Mahina are long-ball hitters. For the rest of the team, we’re looking at them making contact. Our hitting is coming along. With youth there is potential and promise.”

The Kailua Surfriders also are coming off a solid season, having gone 12-7 en route to another Division I state tournament appearance.