Lady Mustangs Take ‘Team Mentality’ Into Softball Opening

Should Kalaheo’s girls softball team come undone at any point this season, it will be from without and not from within, according to head coach John Spencer, who may have his most cohesive group yet.

“Our greatest attribute is their ability to play together,” said Spencer. “The thing that stands out is that they have a ‘team’ mentality. It doesn’t matter whether you are a senior, junior, sophomore or freshman on this team. There are no age barriers, and I’ve never had that before in the beginning (of preseason).”

Kalaheo was hoping to add to its cohesiveness over the weekend on Maui for the Lahainaluna preseason tournament, as well as a pair of separate scrimmages versus both Maui and Lanai high schools.

“We’ll be playing a lot of ball,” Spencer admitted.

The Mustangs went 5-7 last year, their first bad run in Division II since 2012, and will field a relatively young roster overall this spring. Leadership, however, still should be solid with seniors Jaquelyn Howard,

Autumn Grant, Kylie Ishimaru and Brianna Gorgonio back in the fold.

Howard is a four-year player and slated to be No. 1 in Kalaheo’s pitching hierarchy again. “She’s a trooper,” Spencer said. “I admire her ability to play hard-nosed. Her position is the hardest you could have.”

When not on the mound, Howard likely will fill a spot in the infield. Grant is expected to play third base (she’s also a catcher), while Ishimaru will be at second.

“Autumn is a second-year player from the Mainland and our No. 1 catcher,” Spencer said. “Kylie is a third-year player (at Kalaheo) and a speedy girl on the bases. She’s quick at second (base).”

Gorgonio is an outfielder/first baseman capable of doing damage on the offensive side, according to her coach. “She’s our strongest hitter,” Spencer said. “She’ll come in and knock one out (for a home run) on you.”

The Mustangs are seeking their first state tournament appearance since 2012, when they were the OIA DII runner-up to Nanakuli. Kalaheo must finish among the top six White teams to ensure a playoff spot.

“It will be a total team effort,” Spencer predicted. “We’re not going to be a team of all-stars, but the kids have been buying in, and we hope to maintain that.

“Our four seniors have been through the rough parts, but we’ll be young again,” he added. “We’ll still be feisty as ever. This is a real good group of kids.”

Kalaheo opens its OIA White season Saturday at Waialua. Its season home slate includes Aiea March 14, Anuenue March 16, Farrington March 21, Kalani March 28 and Kahuku April 4.