It was a prom night to remember for the Mililani Trojans.
Except for one minor detail: a handful of the Trojans never made it to senior prom on Saturday night. Instead, they battled to defend their OIA baseball championship. For five innings, it seemed like prom might have been a better idea. Campbell led 2-0 with Varen Sabino on the mound. Sabino was coasting along with a one-hitter, using a mix of fastballs and sharp curve balls to confound the Trojans.
But Mililani pulled it out, scoring twice in the bottom of the sixth and then, after JR Suehisa spanked an opposite-field single with one out in the seventh, benefitting from Campbell’s generosity. A wild pitch. A passed ball — a curve in the dirt that Kaiwi Winchester swung at and missed — and suddenly Suehisa was at third base.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Suehisa didn’t hesitate when another Sabino curve hit the dirt. Suehisa sprinted home and scored easily to give Mililani a 3-2 comeback win and the third OIA baseball crown in school history.
Perhaps the most crucial sequence, however, came in the top of the seventh. Winchester, who began the game as a DH, had already gone 1-2-3 on the mound in the sixth after replacing Jason Shiigi. But pinch hitter Cody Ranit belted a double to lead off the seventh, and pinch runner Aaron Doldolea stole third base. No outs, runner at third, game tied. Winchester and sophomore catcher Hunter Faildo made sure they were on the same wave length.
“We said, ‘It’s just me and you. Don’t worry about anyone else. Just stay calm and make your pitches,’ ” Winchester said. “That didn’t get me down. I just got to play my game. It’s happened to me a bunch of times. I just got to pick it up.”
Winchester got Logan Caravalho to ground out to third on a full-count pitch. The count was 1-0 on Shayden Sabangan, who grounded to Vance Oshiro at third for the second out. Devin Gallano went after Winchester’s first pitch and grounded out to first baseman Ethan Thomas. Escape complete.
Winchester picked up his second win in three days. The 6-foot-3 junior pitched four innings for a win over Castle in the quarterfinal round before adding two crucial innings on Saturday.
Defense is all about reps. Skill. Focus. The Trojans’ back-to-back OIA title run had its share of luck, as Coach Mark Hirayama noted, but defense and pitching plus opportunity are a workable combination.
Prior to 2018, Mililani’s lone league championship came in 1997 under Glenn Nitta.
Campbell won three OIA titles in a row from 2013 to ’15 under Rory Pico. Prior to that, the Sabers won in ’95 (Lane Watanuki) and ’78 (Warren Miyasaki).
The Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA State Baseball Championships at Iron Maehara Stadium on Maui will begin on May 8. Seedings and brackets will be released after the ILH playoffs conclude.