Strong Preseason Opponents Prepare Mustangs In Baseball

Kalaheo’s new head baseball coach Stephen Lee has always had high expectations when it comes to the sport he loves, and he inherits a team with high expectations of its own already built in.

“In talking with (athletic director) Mark (Brilhante), this is supposed to be our year to make the state tournament and win a championship,” said Lee, who was a head JV coach previously at Damien, among other coaching stops. “We have good boys, and hopefully, we’ll do well.”

Lee starred at Saint Louis School in his own prep days and went on to play at Saddleback College and LewisClark State, respectively, before returning home to coach. He’s excited about his latest challenge at Kalaheo. He coached its newly formed JV team in the fall, leading it to a solid finish in the league, which included a win over Moanalua.

“The biggest thing is that I always loved working with kids at the high school level,” said Lee, who is employed as a psychiatric mental health counselor at OCCC.

“It was always one of my goals to try to help prepare kids to play at the next level, and I want to give back to the community. The knowledge I have, I hope to pass on to the kids.”

Kalaheo was one of the youngest teams in the state last year under then-coach Alex Racoma with 14 underclassmen and only three seniors on its roster and it still managed to win the OIA White East Division (at 8-2). The Mustangs, who went 9-4 overall, took third in the OIA Tournament and earned one of the league’s berths for the Division II state tournament.

While the talent pool appears deep, Kalaheo still faces disadvantages in competing with most of its OIA counterparts because of its lack of facilities most notably, an on-campus field. The Mustangs play their home games at Kailua District Park.

“We’re hoping the City and County and the community will work with us in trying to redo the field,” Lee said. “We’re also fundraising for an indoor batting cage.”

The Mustangs return a solid corps of veterans, including All-OIA First Team selection Chris Palmer (P/IF), Alika Andres (SS/P), Luke Pauli (3B/P), Joseph Whiting (1B/P) and Makena Johnston (OF), among others.

“Alika and Joseph are our team leaders,” Lee said. “I really like Joseph’s mental approach to practice every day.”

Lee also is excited about short stop/pitcher Makena Johnston, who is returning to the program after a one-year hiatus. Johnston was a standout running back on the Kalaheo football team last fall. “I’m looking for good things from him,” he said. “He has tremendous speed. He may be a leadoff hitter.”

The Mustangs will play an ultra-competitive preseason schedule, highlighted perhaps by Wednesday’s 4 p.m. matchup with Punahou at the Kailua park field.

“We believe in playing the best,” Lee said. Kalaheo visits Kahuku at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Games with Saint Louis Feb. 15 and 22, and Kapolei Feb. 25 close out the preseason slate.