Resiliency carried Maui High to title
Comeback wins, ability to overcome injuries define Sabers’ season
HONOLULU — This Maui High School baseball team never seemed to do things easily.
That continued all the way to the Sabers’ 6-1 victory over Waiakea on Saturday night at Les Murakami Stadium in the Wally Yonamine Foundation Division I State Champion-ship final.
One inning after a five-run outburst, Maui High committed two errors and retired two runners at home plate before getting the last out with the bases loaded for its first state baseball crown in 35 years.
The Sabers’ seventh state team title in any sport — a list that began with the 1982 baseball crown — was perhaps the most improbable that the Maui Interscholastic League has ever produced.
“It felt amazing, over 30-something years, I don’t even know, man,” said second baseman Kao Mindoro, who kept the ball after recording the final out. “Maui High hasn’t won anything, but you know what? We came here with a purpose and we’re going home with something that we really wanted. No one expected us to come this far, but you know we believed as a team.
“As long as we got to states, no matter who we play, we take one out at a time every inning. We never gave up, and look what happened.”
Maui High finished third in the MIL regular season and needed an eight-inning, 7-6 win over Kamehameha Maui two weeks ago to avoid having its season come to an end — nine runs were scored in the final inning of that game.
Four days later, the Sabers’ top pitcher, Kyle Oshiro, suffered a stress fracture in his elbow during a loss to Baldwin in the MIL title game.
“I’m so proud of them,” said Oshiro, who was with the team on Oahu, his right arm in a sling. “They put blood, sweat and tears into four years with this program and this is what it’s all about, a Cinderella story, yeah?”
Team captain Micah Jio, who hit .500 in the state tournament from the leadoff spot with six runs and four RBIs, put it this way: “We came here believing, of course. We knew what we had. We had some injuries like Kyle, but we just had to believe, work hard, push through, never give up. It’s very special because (Oshiro) is a big part of why we’re here. He’s been our horse, he’s been our iron man, he’s been that ace on the mound we can always rely on.”
First baseman Kaipo Paschoal missed his entire junior year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and an elbow injury suffered in a fall showcase on the Mainland cost him 10 of 12 regular-season games this season. He hit 5-for-11 with six runs and two RBIs in the state tournament.
“This year was a roller-coaster,” Paschoal said. “This feels surreal right now.”
In a 6-4 win over Campbell in the semifinals, Mikito Barkman pitched four scoreless innings of relief while Maui High came back from a 4-1 deficit.
A day earlier, the Sabers rallied from two runs down to defeat top-seeded Saint Louis 8-6 — the Crusaders scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh, and left the bases loaded at the end of the game.
“It gave us a lot of momentum when we took out the No. 1 seed and that just let us stick together as a team and produce,” said Jyrah Lalim, who pitched the seventh inning of the title game after Barkman worked the first six in earning his second win in two days.
Four of the six players from Maui High who made the all-tournament team are seniors — Mindoro, Jio, Waylon Golis-Bacos and Bryant Nakagawa. The other two are juniors — Barkman, named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and Lalim.
“Oh yeah, we’re going to miss (the seniors) a ton,” Barkman said. “They are the heart of this crew.”
Barkman used 35 pitches in the semifinal, the most allowable while still remaining eligible for the championship game. Overall, he permitted five hits and two unearned runs in 10 while throwing 112 pitches — he struck out five and walked one.
Lalim had a team-high eight RBIs in the tournament, the last two on a double during Saturday’s decisive rally.
“It was amazing,” Lalim said. “Putting in all that work, coming out here, working together and putting up that ‘W.’ … Man, it feels amazing.”
Jio has played center field most of this season after three years at shortstop as Mindoro’s double-play partner. Jio moved to shortstop for the final inning Saturday night when Lalim went to the mound.
“When I saw that last ball go to Kao, it felt like the perfect ending,” Jio said.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.
Maui High Team State Champions
Boys Golf–1988, 1993, 1994
Boys Track and Field–1987, 1995
MIL State Baseball Champions
Baldwin–1959, 1960, 1984, 1995, 2016
Maui High–1982, 2017