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Mustangs Have ‘Come A Long Way’ Toward DI Contention

If all goes as expected this spring, it’s likely the OIA Red East race will be the most competitive of any baseball league in the state.

Kalaheo second-year head coach Jerry Bush wouldn’t have it any other way. While he will field one of the league’s youngest teams, Bush likes the demanding schedule they face.

“We’re in Division I now, and we want to stay in Division I,” said Bush, who has been a staple in the baseball community since 1970. “We want to play the best competition we can.”

On that note, his wishes will be granted, as the Red East features Castle, Kailua, Kaiser, Kalani, Moanalua and Roosevelt. The Mustangs will play each league opponent twice. A year ago, Kalaheo struggled to a 0-12 mark after returning to DI during the off-season. The good news is that several boys logged their share of playing time and have returned far more seasoned for the 2013-14 campaign. Kalaheo also took part in the American Legion League season as the team continues to build for the future.

“We have a lot to work on,” admitted Bush. “No. 1, we have to play together and cut down on our mistakes because we are young. We’ll make mistakes – that’s the game – we just have to minimize them. A lot of them played with us during the summer and last year, and they’ve come a long way. We have a ways to go, but I’m very pleased with them.”

The current roster includes 14 juniors, three freshmen and one senior.

The lone senior and overall team leader is Iokepa Lapera, who currently hits in the cleanup spot. “We’re pushing him in that direction (as a leader) – we want him to lead by example,” Bush said of Lapera, who was the starting pitcher in the season-opening (5-3) loss to Roosevelt last week. “He’s our ace pitcher and an all-around good ballplayer. He can field, and he can hit. He hits for power. He had a triple against Roosevelt.”

Bush also is high on junior Jack Bell, who is in his third year as a starter. “He’s a really quick centerfielder,” Bush said of Bell, who hits third in the batting hierarchy. “He’s probably our No. 2 pitcher right now and probably our best hitter. He had a single and drew a walk against Roosevelt.”

Radford transfer Cameron Jeter also had an immediate impact in the early-season work-outs before a foot injury sidelined him for the opener. Bush was expecting Jeter to be cleared in time for last weekend’s game against Kalani. “He’s our third baseman and our No. 3 pitcher. He’s a pretty good athlete, and he’s been a welcome surprise to our team.”

Kalaheo returns to action at 3:30 p.m. today (March 12) when the Mustangs host Castle at Kailua District Park. A game at neighboring Kailua High follows at 11 a.m. Saturday. The schedule also includes games with Roosevelt (at home March 19), Kaiser (away March 22), Roosevelt (at Stevenson Intermediate March 29), Kalani (at home April 2), Castle (away April 5), Kailua (at home April 9), Moanalua (away April 12) and Kaiser (at home April 16).