Injured Falcons Face Challenging Baseball Schedule
vailing question, to hear head coach Shannon Hirai tell it.
“Injuries have really slowed us down so far,” he said.
A month into their preseason workouts, having played eight games heading into last weekend via tournaments at both Castle and Mid-Pac, they have been largely without starters Devin Lee and Matt Murakami. Lee’s projected to be the team’s No. 1 pitcher, but has been rehabbing a hurt shoulder since the second scrimmage nearly a month ago. The plan now is for him to be in the lineup more as a designated hitter when he is medically cleared.
“We don’t know how long it will be to get him into (pitching) shape,” Hirai said of right-hander Lee, who impressed during the summer when Kalani played in the American Legion League.
First baseman Murakami was probable for this past weekend’s Mililani tournament. The schedule is unforgiving, meanwhile. Kalani was to play three-time defending OIA champion Pearl City last Friday to open the Mililani tourney and was to draw eitherWaianae or Kailua for its second-round game.
Kalani hosts Mainland power North Monterey County High School (CA) Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at Kahala Field. At 11 a.m. Saturday, they host rival Kaiser in their OIA Red East opening double-header. They then fly to California to play against Alhambra March 16, Montrovia March 17 and Beverly Hills March 18. Games with Desert Oaks High March 19 and 20 follow in Las Vegas.
“It’s a chance to bond and get some of these seniors a look from small colleges (and their coaches),” Hirai said.
While Lee and Murakami figure in the long term, the Falcons are nevertheless buoyed by several other talented veterans who played significant time last spring and over the summer in ALL. Among them are seniors Kiel Odo and Gavin Okada, who’ll play catcher and second base, respectively. They also will pitch: Odo may be late-inning closer and Okada perhaps a starter or middle reliever.
“We’re looking for a big season from Kiel,” Hirai said.“He can shut down a (base-)running game, and he’s gotten stronger. He’s one of our pitchers with the most experience, but he’s struggling right now.
“Gavin is our leading returning hitter — he batted over 300 last year — and he’s also gotten stronger. With our injuries, we might need him to step up in pitching.”
Also back are juniors Cody Nakashima and Dane Onaga. Nakashima will play shortstop and Onaga will pitch. Hirai called senior Ryan Ige “our biggest surprise,” meanwhile.
“Right now, he’s one of our most consistent pitchers, and he’s also playing left field for us,” he added of Ige.
Hirai also projects freshman Chase Sumida as a possible starter. He’s played third, catcher and pitcher so far.“He’s been a surprise.” Older brother Cal Sumida will likely be a big contributor among the pitchers.“He’s pitching really well right now,” Hirai said.
Kalani’s trip to California won’t be all about their own baseball games. They’ll visit Dodger Stadium and the Rose Bowl and also take in some games at Cal State Northridge, where former Falcon Ridge Carpenter is currently a starter.