Mililani is always in the postseason, but the Trojans don’t have a lot of hardware to show for it.
That could change Saturday night in the OIA baseball championship game against Kailua. Mililani earned the right to be there with a 6-5 roller-coaster victory over Campbell on Friday night at Les Murakami Stadium.
A quick check at the record book shows that the Trojans’ last OIA championship came in 1997 under Glenn Nitta, the current Mililani athletic director who has been with the school since it opened in 1973.
“I don’t know, 1970-something,” guessed Trojans right fielder Micah Kaohu, when asked after Friday’s victory if he knows when the last title came.
Close enough. Twenty-one years is a long time.
Excuse Kaohu’s gaffe. He deserves a mulligan. The kid hit the game-winning single in the fifth, breaking a 5-all tie. He also made a shoe-string, Willie Mays-style catch in the seventh to keep the Trojans on top.
“I did it for this team,” Kaohu said. “They put a lot of heart into this program.”
Kaohu was one of the heroes, for sure. But Vance Oshiro gets that same nod for pitching three innings of hitless ball. Oshiro struck out four and only faced 10 batters in mowing down the Sabers. He got the save for reliever Jayton Pang, who entered in the fourth for starter Joshua Reis and was the pitcher of record when Mililani took the lead in the top of the fifth.
The intensity was high throughout. The Trojans (11-4) had the early edge, going up 3-0 in the third. The Sabers (12-2), however, temporarily took the wind out of Mililani’s sails with a five-run fourth for a 5-3 lead. They appeared to be headed to the league title game.
Instead, Oshiro took over and shut Campbell down. At the plate, the Trojans took the show back with those three key runs in the fifth, and it was Kaohu’s single to right that sealed it.
“That’s baseball,” Mililani coach Mark Hirayama said about the topsy-turvy contest. “We gotta play all 21 outs. We’re talking about high school kids with a lot of emotion and some nerves.”
Either way, win or lose in Mililani’s title game against Kailua tonight, the Trojans will be going to the Division I state tournament. A win would certainly prop up the belief that Hirayama and company can come through in the big one.
Mililani’s state tournament resume is also not a long document. The Trojans were D-I runners-up in 2013 and 2014. Other than that, the highest placings were fourth in 1987 and 2015.
“That’s one of the better jobs we did in answering back,” Hirayama said. “We had the momentum and gave it back, so to come back and score a few runs was huge. And for Vance to come in and shut ’em down and save a victory for us. … It was a team victory.”
Campbell will be regrouping after what coach Rory Pico knows is a subpar performance.
“We don’t want to put as many guys on as we did, and I thought we had some good pitches that we could have squared up and hit pretty well, but we didn’t. Any time you don’t pitch and you don’t hit, you limit your chances.
“We don’t have a shot at the OIAs, but we did put ourselves in a situation where we get to participate in the state tournament. That’s the big one. We gotta take this game, this loss and learn from it. Hopefully it makes us better, more hungry, more driven and we can put a better performance out here.
“You put in all the time and effort to get to this stage for an opportunity to win a league championship and to not play well in a big moment, these guys are disappointed and they should be disappointed. Like I said, I’m hoping they use that to drive them to work that much harder to be that much better for the next time we get into this type of situation.”