Spencer’s Mustangs Regroup Following Move To Division II

With a roster heavy with underclassmen, the timing was perhaps ideal for Kalaheo girls softball team’s trip to Maui over the weekend. Developing cohesiveness has been a prevailing theme for the Mustangs this pre-season, to hear head coach John Spencer tell it.

“(Developing team unity) will be a key to our success,” Spencer said on the eve of the trip. “Hopefully, we can receive some lessons over there, work hard and get what we need to get done. For us, it will be fun to go and get our feet wet for the (regular) season. We have some kids who haven’t traveled before, so that should be fun. Something like this is definitely an advantage for us.”

Spencer and the Mustangs are in regroup mode this spring after being moved back down to Division II in the off-season. When promoted to DI prior to the 2013 slate, Kalaheo struggled to a 1-10 mark against Division I competition. The good news is that Kalaheo always has fared well when in Division II, such as two years ago when the Mustangs finished 12-6 overall and as the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division II runner-up to Nanakuli. That Kalaheo team also made the semifinals of the DataHouse DII State Softball Tournament, and posted a nine-game win streak at one point.

Should Kalaheo produce that kind of success this time around, they will do it by committee, according to the coach.

“Right now, no one is stepping up above anyone else,” said Spencer, who is now in his fifth season at the helm of the program. “We’ll have to do it with a team effort because of our youth. (Leaders) will probably come at the halfway point (of the season). Hopefully, we will have developed one or two by that point, which would be nice.

“I’m very excited about this group,” he added. “They’re very enthusiastic, and I think we’ll be more successful this year.”

Offensive output was an issue for Kalaheo last year, but Spencer is eyeing bigger and better things at the plate this time around.

“They’re a lot quicker team than we’ve had here in the past, and we’re hoping to use that to our advantage – especially in our base-running,” he said. “We’re working hard on that. We’re hitting the ball a lot harder, and if we can hit the ball, we’ll have a chance to get some runners on. We’ve worked really, really hard at hitting the ball and hitting it harder. We’ll try and outscore teams. That is how we’ll win games.”

Defensively, the Mustangs remain a work in progress, according to Spencer.

“We’re kind of average, defensively, right now,” he said. “We still don’t have a pitcher who is overwhelming, but the girls all try hard, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Spencer and the Mustangs anticipated battling solid competition over the weekend on Maui, where the Lahainaluna Tournament field was to include Moanalua, Maui High, Baldwin and Kamehameha in addition to host Lunas.

Kalaheo opens its OIA White Conference season March 6 when the Mustangs host Radford.