Kaimana Souza-Paaluhi had a pretty good view of Mid-Pacific’s comeback win over Mililani in last year’s Division I final of the state baseball championship.
“I was sitting right there watching,” he said, pointing over to the seats above Les Murakami Stadium’s first-base dugout.
Then a Mililani freshman who’d played on the junior varsity, Souza-Paaluhi couldn’t do much other than cheer on the varsity from the stands while MPI rallied to the 3-1 win to deny Mililani its first state title. He figures to have far more of an impact on Mililani’s fortunes in the Trojans’ return to the state final on Friday.
As the Trojans’ leadoff hitter, Souza-Paaluhi enters the championship game hitting .636 in the state tournament after going 3-for-4 in Mililani’s upset of top-seeded Mid-Pacific on Wednesday and again in Thursday’s 4-0 semifinal win over Kailua.
The Trojans center fielder has scored a run, driven in two and has four stolen bases in the tournament for a Mililani offense that has repeatedly come through with timely hits over the last three days.
Mililani’s run nearly didn’t make it past Tuesday but Adam Connell delivered an RBI single in the top of the seventh against Hilo to extend the game and the Trojans won 5-4 in nine innings.
Justice Nakagawa twice delivered two-out hits to drive in three runs in the 5-4 win over MPI. The Trojans scored two more runs with two out in Thursday’s win, including Souza-Paaluhi’s single in the sixth.
“We didn’t do that a lot early (in the season) and a lot of it is just believing in what they’ve been working on and letting it happen,” Mililani coach Mark Hirayama said.
The run production has supported a pitching staff that delivered clutch performances from Micah Chinen and Trevor Inouye the last two nights. Inouye turned in a complete-game shutout against Kailua, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out seven.
“Trevor came out and threw strikes and our pitching has been great all year,” Hirayama said. “They’ve kept us in ballgames especially when we weren’t scoring a bunch of runs. Now everybody’s believing in what they can do and playing as a team.”
The Trojans will try to ride that belief one step further than last year.