"Coming into the season, only our team, families and coaches believed in us."

Trevor Teraoka
Kalani senior outfielder

Kalani seniors , left to right, Trevor Teraoka, Reid Matsumura, Stuart Mikami, Marcus Fujita, Darryl Mah and Preston Pires provide leadership for the Falcons.

Falcons flying high

Kalani is trying for its first
Oahu Interscholastic Association
baseball crown since 1971

Thirty-four years have passed since Kalani last won the Oahu Interscholastic Association baseball crown, but thanks to a 9-1 record, the Falcons are soaring into the league playoffs as East Division champions.

Ranked No. 6 in the Star-Bulletin Baseball Top 10, Kalani has relied on the experience and leadership of its six seniors to win close games in come-from-behind fashion all year long.

Catcher Preston Pires, first baseman/pitcher Reid Matsumura, shortstop/pitcher Marcus Fujita and outfielders Stuart Mikami, Trevor Teraoka and Darryl Mah have exemplified the team mentality.

"This team seems like they don't panic," said head coach Shannon Hirai. "They finally got the concept of playing one pitch at a time, and once you get rolling it's hard to stop because they believe they can do anything."

Kalani faced late-game deficits of three, four and five runs against Farrington, Kailua and Kalaheo, respectively, and rallied to win all three games.

The Falcons also defeated Moanalua 6-5 in a 13-inning marathon which lasted almost 5 hours.

"If you played us, you can't believe you lost to this team," said Hirai. "Nobody thought we'd be doing this well."

HirAI STARTED TO see his team jell early in the season when Fujita was suspended as a disciplinary measure. The time spent away from baseball helped the shortstop learn to be a team player, and he returned focused and ready to lead.

Kalani coach Shannon Hirai threw to a batter during practice at Kahala Park.

"Nobody gave us any recognition 'til now, and that's why we want to prove everybody wrong," said Fujita.

Kalani also benefited from the addition of junior third baseman Joshua Markwith, who transferred from Washington High School in Cherokee, Iowa. His solid play at the hot corner, coupled with a .324 batting average, allowed Pires to focus on catching.

Pires led by example, establishing team highs in RBIs (15), average (.457) and on-base percentage (.537). The quiet leader also quarterbacked the Kalani football team and maintains a 3.33 grade-point average.

"These guys take responsibility and do things on their own," said Hirai. "I nag a little, but they get through it."

The team was also aided by some expert tutelage from two of Kalani's best baseball products.

Lenn Sakata was a senior on the 1971 OIA championship squad and was on the team that won the school's lone state championship a year earlier. He went on to play 11 years as a major league infielder and managed the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.

Sakata comes back to the islands during the fall to work with local high school players and aspiring professional prospects. According to Hirai, Sakata threw batting practice to the Kalani players, as well as the prospects he invited, for up to 6 hours a day.

Shane Komine, a 1998 grad, returned to help the team as a pitching coach while rehabilitating his arm after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The former Nebraska ace is awaiting minor league reassignment by the Oakland Athletics.

Hirai also emphasizes the importance of the help he received from parents of the players. They assisted him in organizing summer and fall leagues so that the players could prepare for the spring.

"Coming into the season, only our team, families and coaches believed in us," Teraoka said.

The Falcons (17-6 overall) earned a first-round bye in the OIA tournament and play the winner of today's Campbell-Kailua matchup tomorrow at Kahala Field.

"We've seen Kailua, and they're gonna have the revenge factor," said Hirai. "Campbell is really scrappy and will play to the end. It doesn't matter who we get, because both are good teams."

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