For quite some time, the Mililani Trojans were nearly the forgotten powerhouse of the OIA West.
While Campbell, Leilehua and Kapolei got headlines and attention, deservedly so, the Trojans were battling to find a way to the promised land. They’re doing just that now. With a 4-3 win over BIIF champion Waiakea (17-1), Mililani (11-7) is playing as well as any team in the DataHouse/HHSAA Softball State Championships at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
A team that was in and out of the Star-Advertiser Top 10, struggling to post a .500 mark in the wild West, rising to the final four? It’s not a shock, not with the parity statewide in softball. And not with Cheyenne Ardona, their 6-foot-2 senior, pitching the best ball of her career.
“We had some troubles earlier in the game, but we came out,” said Ardona, who allowed just one earned run and scattered seven hits.
It also came down to two huge plays: Cherise Mori’s two-run single in the top of the seventh to give the Mules the lead, and a leaping catch in deep right field by Ashlyn Kashima, who turned and rifled a perfect one-hop bullet to third base, throwing out baserunner Alize Kaapana as she tried to advance from second base. And just like that, the game was over, Waiakea’s perfect season was no more and Mililani is in the semifinals.
“There’s a lot of stress, but I count on my team to back me up. Ashley came up clutch with that throw. She doesn’t really get a lot of playing time, so this is really big for her. I knew she could do it,” Ardona said. “I was surprised she caught that. I was so excited.”
Kashima was matter of fact about her big play.
“Well, she hit a liner that was kind of in the gap. I kind of jumped for it and I threw it to third,” Kashima said. “I didn’t really get much playing time in the beginning of the season. We always have each other’s back and we always practice hard whether we’re in a slump or not.”
Mililani didn’t finish among the top four of the OIA, and is in the top four at the state tourney.
“I don’t think we came together as one before. We had our differences, but we come together when it matters, and it matters now.”