On this date in 1968, the Kalani baseball team gave coach Herb Okamura his ‘greatest victory,’ but that title probably fell quickly.
Okamura’s Falcons upset favored Punahou 8-7 at Honolulu Stadium after the Buffanblu had already clinched the title. Two years later, Okamura led the Falcons to the state title with what is still regarded as one of Hawaii’s all-time best prep baseball teams.
Kalani finished the season in second place in 1968, their highest finish in any sport since joining the ILH.
Sophomore Ryan Kurosaki was instrumental in the breakthough, putting out a fire with two strikeouts in the eighth inning. He wanted to start, but Okamura saved him for when he needed him.
Kurosaki thrived in the role all the way to the Major Leagues, where he was credited as being the first American of Japanese ancestry to make the big show after a celebrated career at Nebraska.
Kurosaki made the big time for the Saint Louis Cardinals as a 22-year old relief pitcher, getting into seven games and finishing two but struggling to a 7.62 earned run average.
He never made it back to the show, but collected 53 saves in his minor-league career that lasted all the way to 1980. In Kurasaki’s brief big-league career he struck out Fred Kendall, Rick Auerbach, Joe Morgan, George Foster, Jack Billingham and Richie Zisk. His catcher was newly-minted Hall of Famer Ted Simmons.
Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Bob Gibson were also on that team.
Kurasaki and Lenny Sakata were the only high school teammates from Hawaii to make it up the ladder.