Ogasawara masterful for Mililani

Mililani’s Justin Ogasawara thrived in windy conditions, stifling Kalani with a five-hit, complete-game effort to lead the Trojans to a 7-1 upset win over the Falcons on Wednesday at Iron Maehara Stadium in opening-round play of the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Division I Baseball State Championships.

“This is big for us. We know that we’re good. We had to do what we do at practice,” Ogasawara said.

Mililani (11-5) came into the game as the sixth-place team out of the OIA playoffs, claiming the league’s lowest state berth. Kalani (12-4), which lost to Kailua 7-5 in the OIA championship game, had ace Connor Zalewski on the mound. The magical run, one of the best in Kalani baseball history, could not continue.

Often enough, key hits for Mililani came on line drives that got knocked down by the 25 mph gusts coming off Kahului Harbor. The Trojans also didn’t wait around for Zalewski to work his pitches, getting some key hits on first-pitch offerings.

“We don’t wait. Why get behind? I don’t think we have a take sign,” Trojans coach Mark Hirayama said. “As long as it’s a good pitch for us, it comes do discipline and having a good approach.”

It was Ogasawara who seemed more comfortable with the conditions. Though the wind swept through the outfield and blew out toward left field, it turned into more of a pitchers duel for most of the game. Ogasawara struck out three, including the final two batters of the game, and walked none.

“He had good command today. We stress he had to get ahead with this wind,” Hirayama said. “He could get after guys.”

Ogasawara’s curveball and backdoor fastball were enough to jam batters, but his change-up was another key weapon.

“Sometimes I would add a little more side spin so it was like a slurve,” the right-hander said of his curveball. “I also used my change-up today. It looks like a fastball, but I can drop it and it has a little run.”

He retired the leadoff man in six of the seven innings. The only exception was in the sixth, when Kalani scored its lone run.

The Trojans scored two unearned runs in the top of the second inning to take the lead. Aris Nakagawa reached base on an infield error and reached second base on a groundout by Keolu Ramos. Designated hitter Preston Morales (3-for-3) chopped a pitch high in front of home plate for an infield single, setting up an opposite-field, first-pitch single to right by Sheldon Lee. That ball got cut down by the vicious wind blowing in, allowing Nakagawa to score easily from third base with the first run.
Blaine DeMello followed with a similar hit to right field. Right fielder Preston Awaya nearly made a diving catch on the ball, but DeMello’s single brought Morales home from second base for a 2-0 Mililani lead.

The Trojans tacked on a single run in the fourth inning. Morales singled with one out and advanced to second on a perfect bunt single by Lee. With two outs, Ryan Kono slapped a ground-ball single to left and Morales never stopped, running through a stop sign to score Mililani’s third run as left fielder Kyle Sasano bobbled the ball and never got off a throw home.

Kalani finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth. Reece Kakugawa’s fielder’s choice grounder brought Hunter Lau home from third base, but Zalewski grounded into a 6-3 double play to end the threat. It was Ogasawara’s change-up that thwarted Kalani, which had measured his fastballs.

Mililani scored four insurance runs in the top of the seventh. After Kono led off with a walk, Kaimana Souza-Paaluhi doubled down the right-field line to bring Kono home. Nakagawa later drilled a first-pitch ball from Zalewski to deep center for a two-out double, plating Souza-Paaluhi for a 5-1 Mililani lead.

Reliever Christopher Nam couldn’t stop Morales, either. Morales tripled to deep center, bringing Nakagawa and Ramos for a six-run lead. In all, Mililani looked poised and precise.

“That’s what we struggled with all year, not executing,” Hirayama said. “That week after the (OIA) playoffs, that’s what we stressed, playing team ball. We’re not the kind of team that can win without playing together. We have to manufacture runs.”


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