Jason Shiigi’s peak performance lifts Mililani over Kamehameha

Mililani pitcher Jason Shiigi threw a gem in the state D1 baseball tournament on Thursday. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser

WAILUKU — It wasn’t perfect, but it sure was close.

Jason Shiigi pitched his best game of the season at the most crucial time, giving Mililani a two-hit shutout in a 4-0 win over Kamehameha on Thursday morning at Iron Maehara Stadium. Mililani (18-6 overall) came into the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships with the lowest seed, fourth, among league champions.

Shiigi struck out nine with a mix of sharp-biting curveballs and a solid fastball. He walked only one.

“He’s a big, strong kid. We haven’t burned him a lot of innings this year, so he was in the right spot this time of year,” Mililani coach Mark Hirayama said.

Shiigi was ready for his one and only start — he eclipsed the pitch-count mark that would’ve kept him eligible to return on Saturday — even though the 10:45 a.m. start time wasn’t ideal.

“I am not a morning person,” he admitted.

He found himself in a peak-performance situation by design.

“Honestly, it’s about not getting complacent. I’ve had times when I thought I was OK and I stopped working, but before this trip, I worked with other coaches. Constantly improving, still, everything — motion, release point, every little thing a pitcher needs. It was placing my ball in the right spots and changing speeds, especially Kamehameha, they have good hitters,” he said. “That was always my problem. I’d get up 0-2 and maybe throw a fastball down the middle and they hit it. I’ve been working on hitting my spots a lot.”

In a pitchers’ duel with Kamehameha’s Dylan Rawlins, Shiigi got help from his team with single runs in the fourth and sixth innings.

“It was about the momentum. I thought, why not throw my fastball and finish this game out,” he said.

Shiigi retired the last 10 batters he faced. The recipe for Mililani’s success has remained the same whether on Oahu or the Valley Island of Maui.

“We don’t have three or four guys that are going to go out and smash the ball, so 1 through 9, everyone has a role to do,” Hirayama said. “We try to prepare everybody the same way. If our 4 guy needs to bunt, get it down and let the next guy do his job.

“Hat’s off to Shiigi and Coach Mark. Shiigi commanded the zone and pitched well,” Kamehameha coach Daryl Kitagawa said. “We’re just proud of our ballclub, from where we started to where we finished.”

The Warriors opted to start Rawlins instead of Christian DeJesus, one of their top pitchers.

“It was my choice. Dylan was my choice,” Kitagawa said.

It was a stark close to Kamehameha’s state-title hopes after a magnificent run in the latter half of the ILH season, plus a win over Castle in the state first round. Former Warriors coach Tommy Perkins found himself on the Mililani bench helping the Trojans after being released as Kamehameha’s coach in the offseason. He had worked with some of Kamehameha’s players since they were in middle school.

“For me, it’s like every other game we played this year. Coach Mark does an awesome job getting us prepared, getting the kids prepared. Getting them on the same wave. We all have something to contribute. That’s been a mantra since the beginning. It’s kicking in and it’s working,” Perkins said.

The respect was mutual for Perkins and his former players. They hugged him during the handshake line after the game.

“They’re good kids. They work hard. They played well the last half of the season and we expected them to play strong today. We just had to play our best and do what we needed to do,” Perkins said.

Now the Trojans are in the semifinal round and will face top seed Baldwin or BIIF runner-up Waiakea.

“We haven’t seen either one,” Hirayama said. “For me, it doesn’t change. We’ll put pressure on them to make their plays. The best team is going to win.”

Trojan fans may still be less than happy about the fourth seed that Mililani received from the HHSAA. Hirayama didn’t blink then and he doesn’t pay it any thought now.

“It doesn’t matter where we’re seeded. We’ve got a chance to compete and prove what we can do. If we’re last (seeded), we’re last,” he said. “We’re going to come out and play who we’ve got to play and get where we’ve got to go.“


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