The Mililani softball roster is on an 8×11 white piece of paper with mostly black type.
At the bottom of the page, there are a list reminders for the team in its day-to-day effort to improve. A few of the examples are in red type highlighted in yellow, and one of them reads, “Little things make big things happen.”
The late John Wooden — the legendary UCLA basketball coach — is the originator of that quote, but the lesson was learned, painfully, by the Trojans on Saturday in a 5-2 loss to Campbell.
What may seem as an innocuous one-pitch mistake turned out to be the eventual three-run difference. Take that one (little thing) pitch away and it’s a whole different ballgame.
Mililani was in an unenviable 3-0 hole after Jocelyn Alo connected on a pitch in the middle of her wheelhouse for a three-run cannon blast to left, and that lead quickly became 5-0 after two innings. Yet, somehow, the Trojans found the wherewithal to steal the momentum and inch back to make it a respectable 5-2 at the end.
Most times when a softball team takes a 5-0 lead after two innings, the lead tends to go up and up toward that mercy-rule area instead of the other way around. Somehow, Mililani prevented further damage against the two-time defending state champion Sabers.
Trojans head coach Rose Antonio came right out and said it afterward: “We should have just not pitched to her, that’s the bottom line.”
After all, Alo is the reigning All-State position player of the year and she carries a mighty bat. Antonio went on to say that the game plan was to not pitch to her and, if need be, put her on base with a walk.
So, it’s no surprise that Alo walked in her next two at-bats, doubling pitcher Misha Carreira‘s game total of free passes from what would have been two to four.
Carreira found her mojo and the Trojans all followed suit to not let the game get out of hand. Carreira had seven strikeouts, only two less than Campbell senior Dani Cervantes — the reigning All-State pitcher of the year — who turned in a brilliant performance with nine strikeouts and just one walk.
“Dani did really good,” Alo said. “She hit her spots and executed pitches and knows her defense and I are going to back her up. We mesh well together.”
The game was the 11th out of 18 total OIA West games played so far that have been decided by three runs or less or have gone to extra innings.
Campbell (4-1) stayed a game behind front-running Pearl City (5-0), and Mililani (3-2) fell a half-game behind Leilehua (4-2), which beat Nanakuli 9-3 on Saturday.
Two big games are slated for this week: Pearl City at Mililani on Tuesday, and Campbell at Leilehua on Saturday.
Alo talked about her Sabers bouncing back after a 2-1 loss to Pearl City last week: “Pearl City is a good team. I give them props. They came to play that day and they wanted it and got it. I just let it go. It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.”
Alo also has a ton of respect for Mililani.
“They’re a good team,” she said. “They’re a comeback team and they have hitters that can hit bombs, too. It was a good game this time and it will be a good game next time, too.”
Michael Hermosura, the Sabers’ head coach, knows next time against the Trojans (April 13 at Mililani) won’t be easy.
“They’re a great team,” he said. “They have a lot of seniors and we’re young all the way around except in the middle — catcher (Alo), pitcher (Cervantes) and center fielder (Cieana Curran).Those are my seniors and everybody else is a junior or sophomore.”
Mililani shortstop and leadoff hitter Tarah Aniya, who homered for the first of the Trojans’ two runs, was not disappointed despite Saturday’s loss.
“Coming into this game, we knew it was going to be a tough one,” Aniya said. “We all tried to pull together and keep it going and we did the best we could and I’m proud of my team for it.”
Antonio is trying to get her girls ready for the Chargers on Tuesday.
“We kept up the fight (against the Sabers) and adjusted, but came up short,” she said. “Pearl City is just as good. It’s going to be another battle, another tough one.”
Perhaps Antonio will use another line written for the benefit of her players at the bottom of that roster as an important teaching point this week: “Do the little things right today.”
The OIA East is shaping up as a close race, too. Kaiser and Moanalua are both 4-0-1. The two teams tied 6-6 on March 2 and will meet again March 30.
OIA WEST SOFTBALL
Close games so far
>> Mililani 5, Nanakuli 4
>> Campbell 5, Leilehua 2
>> Pearl City 5, Leilehua 4 (9 innings)
>> Kapolei 7, Nanakuli 6
>> Leilehua 6, Mililani 4
>> Pearl City 9, Kapolei 3 (8 innings)
>> Campbell 7, Waianae 4
>> Pearl City 2, Campbell 1
>> Nanakuli 7, Waianae 6 (11 innings)
>> Leilehua 3, Kapolei 1
>> Campbell 5, Mililani 2