Lady Mustangs Galloping Into State Softball Tourney

The year 2015 will be remembered for when Kalaheo returned to the high-rent district of Island softball. With its first appearance in three years at the Division II state softball championships this week, the Mustangs now look to achieve what no previous Kalaheo team has ever done: win a state title.

Pairings for the tournament, to be played Tuesday-Friday at McKinley High and UH Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium, were to be announced late Sunday. First-round games and the quarterfinal round are Tuesday and Wednesday at McKinley. The action moves to Rainbow Wahine Stadium for Thursday’s semifinals and Friday’s championship round.

Windward Oahu Voice takes a look at Kalaheo’s prospects.

The Mustang File

Record: 9-4 overall (8-3 in OIA DII season), heading into last Thursday’s OIA tournament semifinal.

Wins: Over Anuenue 20-2 in five innings March 16; over Anuenue 11-1 in five innings March 16, over Farrington 19-7 in five innings March 21, over Farrington 10-9 March 21, over Kalani 13-2 in five innings March 28, over Kalani 10-0 in five innings March 28, over Kahuku 4-3 and 11-10 April 4, over Kahuku 7-6 May 6 (OIA DII tournament first round).

Losses: To Waialua 13-12 March 7, to Aiea 14-2 in five innings March 14, to Nanakuli 16-5 in five innings April 11, to Radford 9-8 in nine innings April 25.

Signature wins: Over Kalani (13-2), over Kahuku 4-3, 11-10 and 7-6 (OIA DII tournament first round).

The History Kalaheo at the state tournament: This will mark Kalaheo’s fifth appearance in the DII state tourney. The Mustangs also appeared in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, when they finished a school-best fourth. The Mustangs own a 7-5 all-time record in the DII tournament.

What to watch: The ability to win the close games has helped head coach John Spencer and his players to this point, as they already have been involved in six contests decided by one run. The Mustangs are 4-2 in those games, with three of the wins over Kahuku. The last one, a 7-6 win over the Red Raiders in the OIA DII first-round game, ensured them of one of the league’s four berths at states.

Veteran leadership has been vital this year. Seniors Jaquelyn Howard, Autumn Grant, Kylie Ishimaru and Brianna Gorgonio were key components a year ago as juniors when the team went 5-7. This time around, they were coaches on the field for one of the youngest teams in the OIA. Howard is a four-year player in the program and the team’s starting pitcher.

While Howard’s pitching always has kept the team in the mix in every game, offensive output has been on par with the best DII teams in the state. Indeed, Kalaheo had exceeded the 10-run plateau in seven of its nine wins heading into the weekend. It also has been resilient, having trailed in all three of their close wins over Kahuku.