Trojans knock Bears from title contention
WAILUKU – The Maui Interscholastic League’s run in the championship portion of the Wally Yonamine Foundation Division I State Championship is over.
The end came Thursday night, when top-seeded Baldwin High School fell 5-1 to Mililani in front of a packed house at Maehara Stadium that was quiet for most of the game.
The Bears scored the game’s first run in the top of the second inning – Noah Apolo doubled to lead off and scored one out later on an infield single by Makana Victorine – but after that, they had just two baserunners until the seventh as Kanoa Hironaka worked his way toward a four-hitter.
Baldwin put two runners on in the final inning, but the game ended on a double play.
“Very tough loss,” said Bears coach Jon Viela. “Everybody who makes it to the state tournament, their goal is to win the state championship. Anytime you lose in the states, whether you lose in the first round, in the semis or in the final game – and I think we have been part of every situation – any loss hurts.”
Mililani (11-7) will meet fourth-seeded Hilo today with a berth in the title game at stake. Baldwin (13-3) will play a fifth-place semifinal today against Kailua.
The Trojans loaded the bases with one out in the fourth on an error and base hits by Sean Sonognini and Jamesson Madrid. Joshua Nobriga struck out Ekolu Ramos looking at a curveball, but Kaiea Badiny and Trevor Inouye each walked to give Mililani a 2-1 lead. Anoai Moe-Keahi then came on and got Landon Ogomori on a popup to shortstop on the first pitch.
The Trojans added a run in the fifth when a potential inning-ending double-play throw to first base on a ground ball by Sonognini was too late. A hit batsman and a walk loaded the bases, but Moe-Keahi got out of further trouble when Badiny lined out to second base.
Mililani added its final runs in the sixth. Troy Kakugawa doubled home Inouye, who reached on an error to lead off, and Kim singled in Kakugawa.
Hironaka struck out two batters and walked one, and the Oahu Interscholastic Association runners-up also turned two double plays.
“My slider was on it today and it kept all of them off balance,” said the 6-foot-1 senior right-hander. “We were ready. We came in hot into the playoffs, even though we lost to Campbell, we picked it up starting states and then we knew they were the No. 1 seed. We wanted these guys and we knew we could beat them. We were ready for them.”
Hironaka got through the game on 94 pitches.
“He kept us off balance and he got his slider going,” Viela said. “He had trouble with his curveball, but his slider was his bread-and-butter pitch. He didn’t start off with his slider as his go-to pitch, but towards the middle of the game to the end he started using that slider, kind of like pitching backwards.”
Viela decided to go with Nobriga as the starter instead of Apolo, who was 5-0 in MIL play. Three Baldwin pitchers walked six batters and hit two more Thursday.
“We always go with match-ups and when we looked at it we thought that Josh would be good with these guys,” Viela said. “Noah had some trouble in his last couple of outings and I think Josh matched up well with them.”
Victorine had two hits, and also picked off two runners at first base in the first two innings from his catcher’s spot.
Kakugawa was 2-for-3 and Sonognini was 2-for-4. The Bears committed two errors that made four of the Trojans’ runs unearned.
“We just tried to come out and play errorless baseball, throw strikes and put the ball in play,” Mililani coach Mark Hirayama said. “We were fortunate we were able to do that today and come out with the victory. We just tried to take advantage of our opportunities. We didn’t score a lot of runs, but when we got some guys on base we were able to put the ball in play and things worked out for us.”
Mililani embraced the large crowd away from home.
“We just told them it is going to be fun,” Hirayama said. “There is going to be a lot of people there, there is going to be a big crowd and this is what we play for.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Joshua Nobriga, Anoai Moe-Keahi (4), Patrick Turner (6) and Makana Victorine; Kanoa Hironaka and Jamesson Madrid. WHironaka. LNobriga. 2BBaldwin: Noah Apolo; Mililani: Troy Kakugawa.