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Mustangs’ Pitching Strength Bodes Well For OIA Season

Epic matchups, like this Saturday’s game at Waipahu, are what prompted Kalaheo coach Stephen Lee to put together a high-profile pre-season schedule when he took over the program in the off-season.

As the baseball team reaches the midway point of its OIA season, the Waipahu game is not exactly a must-win, but it is likely the best test the Mustangs will face until their expected appearance in the Division II state tournament in May.

“These two (last week-end’s Radford game and Saturday’s game at Waipahu) are important games,” said Lee. “They are going to set the tone for us, but our confidence level is high. Our preseason schedule prepared us. We wanted to make sure our pitchers went against good teams like Saint Louis and Waipahu.”

Within the OIA White Conference, the Mustangs haven’t been tested yet, adding even more intrigue to this weekend. Kalaheo opened the OIA with a 6-4 win over Waialua and was in complete command in sweeps of East foes Kaimuki (15-1 and 9-2) and Farrington (14-0 and 12-0).

The catalyst to date for Kalaheo has been its pitching staff. The Mustangs produced no-hitters in both wins over Farrington, using five different hurlers in game two of that series alone. Kalaheo also committed no errors in game two.

“The key thing has been their ability to throw strikes,” Lee said. “They’re consistent, and they’ve been getting ahead of the hitters.”

Kalaheo’s starting rotation has included Chris Palmer, Alika Andres and Nate Milca, while Matthew Anderson-Lee, Joe Whiting, Luke Pauli and set-up man Ben Schofield have carved out relief spots.

“We’ve been real happy with our pitching staff,” Lee said of a group that has yielded only seven runs in five games. “We’re trying to rotate them all now so we’ll have depth if we can get into the state tournament. Good pitching always will beat good hitting.

“We still have work to do, but we’re on the right road. The kids are competing really well, and our mental approach to the game has been good. The team that comes to play will win. They’re putting up the numbers, and they’re starting to gel.”

Offensively, the Mustangs have produced 56 runs in five games, led by Andres and junior Chris Sieple. Both players are hitting over .500. “Our bats are coming along nicely,” Lee admitted.

Waipahu finished second (to Radford) in the OIA DII tournament last year after winning the OIA title in 2009 under longtime coach Milton Takenaka. The Marauders took a 2-0 record into late last week, having had a handful of games postponed because of rain.