Just as he was in preseason and at the beginning of the regular season and even after an 0-3 start, Kaiser first-year coach Kila Ka’aihue was supremely confident about his Cougars baseball team after a 9-3 win over No. 6 Kalani on Wednesday.
“We’ve got a really good ball club,” said Ka’aihue, who played in 126 major league games with the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics before retiring two years ago. “They’re learning and getting better every day, which is the most important thing. They’re learning the game of baseball and they’re a bunch of athletes that are turning into baseball players which is really nice to see.”
The results weren’t there in three losses to open the OIA regular season, but the Cougars have turned it around with five wins in their last six games following a 6-0 shutout of Roosevelt this afternoon at the Kaiser field.
Sophomore Pono Lyman and senior Chase Asuncion combined on a two-hit shutout and freshman Kainoa Craig and sophomore Landon Shigeta had three hits apiece for the Cougars (5-4), who are a much different team than a month ago.
Kaiser lost 6-1 in its first meeting against Kalani before scoring eight runs in the seventh inning for a 9-3 win on Wednesday. The 6-0 win over Roosevelt came 23 days after the Rough Riders hammered the Cougars 9-1.
Kaiser was held to one run in each of its first three games but is averaging 6.9 runs a game since.
“It was frustrating,” Ka’aihue said of the 0-3 start. “We’ve had bases loaded a bunch of times, we’ve had guys in scoring position, we’ve had the winning run on third and we just haven’t gotten that one hit that breaks it open.”
Senior shortstop Lincoln Lima‘s game-tying home run in the seventh inning against Kalani was the hit Ka’aihue had been looking for and started a monster inning for the Cougars that carried over to today.
Kaiser scored four times in the second inning and tacked on another in each of the next two frames to get the big lead.
Lyman and Asuncion did the rest allowing only two singles and four walks with three strikeouts.
Kaiser moved ahead of Roosevelt (4-5) in the standings and is just one loss behind Moanalua (5-3), who the Cougars play on Wednesday in Salt Lake. Kaiser beat Na Menehune 4-3 earlier this month for its first league win.
With only Castle and Kalaheo remaining in the regular season after that, an 8-4 record after an 0-3 start is a real possibility for a Cougars team that can be dangerous in the playoffs with a lineup including Lima, senior Keoni Pangan, Craig, Antonio Omphroy and catcher Kainoa Torres in the top five spots.
“We’ve put ourselves in a lot of tight situations in close games and the more we can do that, the more it will pay off later in the season and we’re starting to see that,” Ka’aihue said.