Softball titles are becoming commonplace in Central Oahu.
Mililani won the OIA junior varsity crown in the winter with a group of those underclassmen moving up to help the varsity capture the OIA Red and Division I state championships in the spring.
Several Trojans quickly reconvened for the summer season and helped the Mililani-based Guava Jam Softball Club win the 16-and-under title at the ASA Champions Cup in Irvine, Calif.
Guava Jam, which includes representatives from Mililani, Kamehameha, Leilehua and Maryknoll, went 5-1 in pool play then swept through the 50-team single-elimination bracket, winning three games on Monday to become the first team from Hawaii to take home a title from the showcase event.
“I credit the girls stamina-wise,” Guava Jam coach James Millwood said. “It was hot, a different type of heat than back home. We had 12 girls and tried to keep them fresh.”
Most of the team made the trip last year, competing in the 16-and-under bracket as a 14-and-under team. After being eliminated early in the bracket last year, Guava Jam went 10-1 in its return this summer.
But the plaque commemorating the achievement was just part of the reward.
“As you win you get more and more colleges coming around and watching us play and showing interest and trying to recruit the girls,” Millwood said. “That’s all we’re trying to look for, to give them exposure and hopefully find a place to play softball.”
The college coaches in attendance got a long look at Mililani junior Aubree Kim, the reigning All-State Pitcher of the Year. Kim again carried workhorse status through the tournament, appearing in eight of the Guava Jam’s 11 games. Kamehameha’s Rayla Jacobs-Kea threw two innings of relief in both of Guava Jam’s final two games.
“They worked well together because Aubree has a good riseball and a changeup and then Rayla comes in and she has a good downball,” Millwood said.
Guava Jam surrendered just five runs in six pool play games, won its first two bracket games Sunday then picked up three more victories on Monday, closing with a 5-2 win over Firecracker-Flores — the lone team to beat Guava Jam in pool play.
Kamehameha’s Kalei Kaneshiro and Dallas Millwood were among the team’s top offensive threats in the tournament but James Millwood was particularly impressed with the team’s play behind its pitching staff.
“I would put our defense up against anybody,” Millwood said. “Defensively they’re sound and know how to play the game.”
Millwood has two daughters on the team — Kamehameha junior Jordan and incoming freshman Dallas — and has coached the team since they got together in the 12-and-under division.
“This group of girls have been playing together for four or five years and they play really well together,” Millwood said.
Five members of the team — Kim, Kristen Ishii, Keri Togami, Markie Okamoto and Maya Yoshiura — were in Mililani’s starting lineup for the state tournament final against Campbell in May.
Maryknoll outfielder Bree Soma was a second-team all-state pick and Okamoto was an honorable mention catcher.
It isn’t the first time James Millwood has led a team to prominence. He helped build the Mililani football program into a perennial contender over 13 years as head coach and began educating himself on softball in the 1990s when his oldest daughter took up the sport. He stepped down as head coach in 2007 but remains an assistant athletic director at Mililani with club softball now his coaching focus.
“I love what I’m doing. It’s relaxing, I get to spend time actually with my own daughters,” he said. “I coached football for 25 years, I had four daughters and now at least I’m there spending time with them and seeing them get some success and having fun playing with their friends.
“It makes it easier having good parents and good players as far as attitude and work ethic.”
The team is staying in California through the week and will compete in the Surf City Summer Showcase in Yorba Linda, Calif.
Guava Jam’s full roster:
Coaches: James Millwood, Stanley Cabanas and Jensen Kim