Alhambra played host to Hawaii’s Kalani High in a doubleheader on Tuesday. It was the first time Alhambra played an out-of-state game at Moor Field, and from the looks of it, it was quite the experience for Kalani. They went to Magic Mountain, toured Dodger Stadium and took a stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And no trip to California is validated until you try In-N-Out burgers and a little taste of The Hat. Kalani will play at Monrovia this afternoon before playing Beverly Hills and then heading off to Las Vegas for the culmination of their six-game trip. Our Nathan Cambridge covered the games and our Keith Birmingham was there to shoot the action.
ALHAMBRA — The Kalani Falcons crossed the ocean from their home in Honolulu, Hawaii, to start their weeklong, six-game mainland baseball swing with a Tuesday doubleheader against Alhambra at Moor Field.
“I think it’s a great experience for the kids. Our seniors, we wanted to get them some mainland exposure in case they go to college,” Kalani coach Shannon Hirai said. “It’s a chance for most of these guys to experience a college road trip. I wanted to try to give them that opportunity.”
Alhambra (6-1) swept both games, winning in convincing fashion 11-3 and 12-2, with the second game called after five innings.
“We started some other guys in the first game to give them a shot to start and in the next game we (went) with the guys that have been starting,” Alhambra coach Steve Gewecke said. “Obviously we are playing to win just like they are.”
Over the last 10 years coach Shannon Hirai has been taking the Falcons to the mainland to play and gain experience and exposure for potential college playing opportunities. On a trip years ago Shane Komime had a breakout game that led to a scholarship from Nebraska.
“These trips have kind of given opportunities to further playing baseball,” Hirai said.
This year’s trip is focused on the importance of education in achieving goals on and off the field, something critical to Kalani gaining approval from the local school system for the excursion. This past weekend included a visit to Cal State Northridge, where the Hawaiians met with the coaches and players, including former teammate Ridge Carpenter.
“You have to prepare yourself for college and the things that go into it, like your study habits,” senior starting catcher Kiel Odo said of the lessons he learned from the Northridge visit. “You’ve got to get those things down. Just working hard at baseball and being a good student.”
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In the second game, the Moors jumped on Falcons starting pitcher Ryan Ige (1-2) for five runs in the first inning. Alhambra pitcher Greg Saldate (1-0) had an RBI double to score leadoff hitter Jonathan Beltran from second base. Vailele Peko beat out a throw to first base to deny the Falcons (4-9) a double play and score Saldate from third for the second run. The Moors scored three more before Rafael Barrios was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double to end the inning. Juan Morales scored on the play.
The Moors chased the Falcons starter in the second with two outs, but not before Peko drove in two more runs with a double to the left-field gap for a 7-0 lead.
In the first game, Kalani’s Chase Sumida had a two-run double in the fifth inning to give the Falcons a short-lived 3-2 lead. In the bottom of the inning the Moors put six consecutive batters on base and scored eight runs.
Moors ace Jonathan Beltran faced the minimum number of batters in the final two innings and used 13 pitches to strike out the first three Falcons he faced.
Kalani will play four more games in the next four days before its spring break ends. Today they will face Monrovia at 3:15 p.m. and Thursday will visit Beverly Hills before traveling to Las Vegas to play a pair of games against Desert Oasis.
The California matchups were facilitated by Gewecke who has coached in the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League for the last five summers, the last three with Hirai.
The Falcons brought 22 players, with some 12 families also making the trip to lend support. Michele Kuwaye, mother of junior outfielder Daren Kuwaye, was one of the parents who made the trip.
“For those of us that did come, it was really important because they really wanted to support their sons in this sport,” the elder Kuwaye said. “We truly love the game.”
Aside baseball the Falcons’ highlight of their trip appears to have been this past Saturday’s visit to Magic Mountain.
“Six Flags was pretty awesome,” the younger Kuwaye said.