Leile­hua And Mililani Ma­jor Threats In Base­ball Ti­tle Hunt

MidWeek Islander (Central Oahu) - - Central Oahu Sports - By JACK DANILEWICZ

For Leile­hua and Mililani, the “sec­ond sea­son” of­fi­cially be­gins this week with the Di­vi­sion I state base­ball tour­na­ment Tues­day-Fri­day at Iron Mae­hara Sta­dium on Maui. (Pair­ings for the tour­na­ment were to be re­leased over the week­end.) A look at both Leile­hua’s and Mililani’s prospects fol­lows. Leile­hua High Reg­u­lar sea­son record: 6-10 over­all (2-3 at home, 4-5 on the road, 0-2 on a neu­tral field)

How they got here: The Mules opened the OIA post- sea­son tour­na­ment with an up­set of East No. 3 seed Moanalua and fol­lowed with a win over Waipahu in the quar­ter­fi­nals to ad­vance to the semi­fi­nals, thus en­sur­ing one of the league’s five state berths.

Leile­hua fin­ished fourth in the OIA af­ter be­ing edged out by Mililani and Kailua in the semis and third-place game, re­spec­tively.

Sig­na­ture wins: Over Mililani (3-0) March 8; over Mililani (9-6) April 3; over Moanalua (4-3) April 24; over Waipahu (3-1) April 25

Play­ers to watch: Se­niors Bran­don Smithe, Cody Academia and Ian Kaopua

What to watch: The Mules prove that it is how you fin­ish, not how you start. The team shook off a three-game los­ing streak to open its OIA slate and en­dured a fourgame skid at mid-sea­son, but en­ters the state tour­na­ment hav­ing won four of its last seven.

The losses to Kailua and Mililani also were winnable in that stretch, which fig­ures to make Leile­hua one of the more danger­ous first- round op­po­nents in the field.

This is the school’s sec­ond straight state tour­na­ment ap­pear­ance un­der head coach Lane Watanuki. Mililani High Reg­u­lar sea­son record: 9-7 over­all (3-4 at home, 4-2 on the road, 2-1 on a neu­tral field)

Sig­na­ture wins: Over Camp­bell (6-2) April 13; over Cas­tle (1-0) April 25; over Leile­hua (5-4) April 26.

How they got here: The Tro­jans were im­pres­sive at the re­cent OIA tour­na­ment, post­ing wins over Kalani, Cas­tle and Leile­hua to reach the ti­tle game, guar­an­tee­ing them­selves one of the league’s five state berths.

Al­though Mililani was de­feated by Red West reg­u­lar-sea­son cham­pion Camp­bell in the OIA ti­tle game, Mililani still bring plenty of mo­men­tum into this week.

Play­ers to watch: Cole Nakachi, Troy Kaku­gawa, Kanoa Wong, Trevor Inouye and Pres­ley Al­cover

What to watch: With wins in four of its last five games, Mark Hi­rayama’s team en­ters this week’s state tour­na­ment play­ing about as well as any­one in the field.

As with most prep base­ball out­fits, pitch­ing and de­fense re­main the key for this group, as Mililani is 9-1 this spring in games in which they hold the op­po­nent to three runs or less. The Tro­jans also have fared well in close en­coun­ters, hav­ing gone 4-1 in games de­cided by two runs or less.

This week marks Mililani’s fourth state tour­na­ment ap­pear­ance in the last five years.

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