Mustangs: Small Team That Could Steps Up To The Plate

Jack Bell at bat. Photo from Kalaheo High School yearbook staff.

Despite a nine-day layoff between the OIA tournament and this week’s Division II state tournament, the Kalaheo baseball team was far from idle. First-year head coach Stephen Lee made sure of that, lining up exhibition games late last week with ILH power Punahou.

“We like real live game situations,” Lee said. “We want to simulate as best we can for the kids what pressure situations are like. (Punahou head coach) Kenny Harrison is a good friend. He’s helping us out, and we’re helping them.”

As the Mustangs await today’s state opener, their 2012 resume looks impressive. They enter this week at 9-3 overall, having advanced to the OIA DII title game recently, where they were defeated by Waipahu, 5-1. Having one of the smallest rosters in prep baseball didn’t stop Lee from setting high standards this season.

Like their Division I neighbor, Castle (see accompanying story), the Mustangs’ season began with a transition mode to a new coaching staff.

“It’s been tough trying to build the program,” Lee admitted. “The loss to Waipahu was tough for our kids, although I’m happy for our seniors that they were able to play in the championship game. We lost because of our errors, so if we can minimize our errors and play that perfect game this week, we’ll be fine. We have good pitching, and hopefully the hitting will be there for us.”

Pairings for the state tournament, which runs today (May 9) through Saturday, were to be revealed late last week. Regardless of today’s opponent, Lee envisions Chris Palmer making the start for the Mustangs. “He’s been doing really well,” Lee said. Should the Mustangs progress through the tournament, Nate Milca, Alika Andres, Joe Whiting and Matthew Anderson-Lee will be called on, depending on the opponent.

The team also features Kaohu Summers, Jack Bell, Geoffrey Craighead, Luke Pauli, Bryan Silva and Chris Sieple.

Despite the loss to Waipahu in the OIA title game, the Mustangs have won four of their last five games.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve played our best baseball of the season yet,” Lee said. “Right now, what we need to do is practice better and have more intensity at practice.”

Kalaheo’s first-round game will be at Hans L’Orange Park in Waipahu. The tournament shifts to Les Murakami Stadium at UH Manoa for Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s action.