Sea­soned Mus­tangs’ Pitch­ing Is Key For Di­vi­sion II Play

MidWeek Islander (Windward Oahu) - - Windward Oahu Sports -

For mem­bers of the Kala­heo base­ball team, it’s hard not to look upon 2015 as the “pay­off year” on their in­vest­ment. Af­ter two years of com­pet­ing in Di­vi­sion I with one of the youngest rosters in the state, a more-sea­soned Kala­heo team re­turns this spring to try to make a run in Di­vi­sion II.

All told, eight mem­bers of Kala­heo’s 24-man ros­ter have been with the pro­gram for three years or more.

“We’re very ex­cited,” third-year Kala­heo head coach Jerry Bush said. “We’re se­nior-laden. We have pitch­ing and we have depth for the very first time. Pitch­ing will be our key. When I ar­rived three years ago, we didn’t have any. You have to have it in base­ball, and we have the ex­pe­ri­ence now — and the arms.”

The re­turn of se­nior cen­ter fielder Jack Bell is among the rea­sons for op­ti­mism. En­ter­ing his fourth year as a starter, Bell was cho­sen as an OIA Red East Sec­ond Team All-Star last spring in a vote of league coaches at sea­son’s end.

“He’ll hold down cen­ter field and be one of our team lead­ers,” Bush said of Bell. “He’s a great ath­lete.”

Kala­heo’s prospects re­ceived a fur­ther boost last week when the Mus­tangs added five play­ers who had been on the school’s bas­ket­ball and soc­cer teams.

The tim­ing worked per­fectly for coaches to in­te­grate the late­com­ers, since Di­vi­sion II be­gins its regular sea­son more than a week later than Di­vi­sion I teams. The Mus­tangs had all of last week to prac­tice as a full team be­fore turn­ing their at­ten­tion to this Satur­day’s OIA opener at Aiea (3 p.m.).

Among play­ers who joined the team last week are Kaleb Gil­more, and Kekai and Jalen Smith, from Kala­heo’s state cham­pi­onship bas­ket­ball team, and soc­cer stand­outs Ten­ni­son Cantrell and Thomas Capllonch.

“Kaleb pitches and plays short­stop — he’ll be one of our bet­ter ballplay­ers,” Bush said of Gil­more, who trans­ferred to Kala­heo from Mary­knoll last sum­mer. “Kekai is go­ing to help us, too. He’ll play sec­ond or third, and he pitches. He can play any­where, and Jalen will pitch and play out­field.

“Thomas has been with us three years, and he was our short­stop last year,” Bush added of Capllonch. “He may be in right, cen­ter or left (field). Ten­ni­son has a lot of ver­sa­til­ity.”

With that in mind, Bush’s phi­los­o­phy is to re­gard his play­ers as gen­er­al­ists rather than spe­cial­ists.

“In three years, we’ve made them (se­niors) move around and play dif­fer­ent po­si­tions,” he ex­plained.

Bush also has high hopes for vet­er­ans Bran­don Bur­ton, Chase Focht and Kaliu LaPera. “They’re ath­letes,” Bush said of the trio.

While pitch­ing fig­ures to be among the strengths for Kala­heo this sea­son, Bush also is look­ing for more sup­port of­fen­sively. “I’d like to see our bats (come around) more, and I’d like to see more line drives than pop­ups,” he said.

On the heels of Satur­day’s game at Aiea, Kala­heo will play its home opener next Wed­nes­day (March 18) ver­sus Kahuku at Kailua Dis­trict Park. The Mus­tangs’ home slate also in­cludes games against McKin­ley (March 25), Wa­ialua (April 1), Nanakuli (April 4) and Far­ring­ton ( April 18). Kala­heo’s road sched­ule in­cludes games against Far­ring­ton (March 21), Kapolei ( March 28), McKin­ley (April 11) and Kahuku (April 15 at Hau­ula Play­ground).

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