2016-17 MIL Boys Athlete of the Year

Micah Jio: State baseball crown capped multisport All-Star career

Micah Jio was the Maui Interscholastic League Division I Player of the Year in baseball and a first-team D-I basketball All-Star in his senior year at Maui High School. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Chase Corniel points to a state tournament quarterfinal win over top-seeded Saint Louis.

Steven Vega says it may be a basketball season that took the Maui Interscholastic League by surprise.

Micah Jio, though, knows precisely when he realized that his senior year for Maui High School was on its way to being special.

It was when he made two relief appearances in one game — a 7-6, eight-inning victory over Kamehameha Maui in the MIL tournament semifinals that kept the Sabers’ season alive.

“That’s when I started to believe,” said Jio, whose work on the diamond and basketball court have made him The Maui News’ MIL Boys Athlete of the Year.

Micah Jio is joining a list of MIL Athletes of the Year that includes 1998-99 boys winner Shane Victorino.

In that win over the Warriors, Maui High scored five times in the top of the eighth before Jio had to return to the mound to stop a rally in the bottom of the inning.

Two weeks later, the Sabers became the first MIL baseball team to win a state title as the league runner-up.

“It’s going to be crazy telling my grandkids about that,” said Jio, the first Maui High winner of the MIL boys award since Robert Kemfort in 1995-96. “It was a wild run for us.”

Corniel, the Maui High baseball coach, said he asked Jio to do whatever was necessary this season — the 5-foot-7 center fielder responded with an MIL Player of the Year performance.

Jio was also a state all-tournament pick after going 7-for-14 with six runs and four RBIs in four games and pitching six innings against the Crusaders.

“He didn’t know that he was going to pitch,” Corniel said. “I had to make the decision to go with Jio because we needed our senior out there. I told him: ‘This is what it’s coming down to, all those years at states, and this is the moment you have to step up on the mound. If you really want our team to win, you will our team to win.’

“That’s exactly what happened.”

Jio played center field most of this season after being a three-year starter at shortstop.

“We knew that our outfield was going to be an issue, so we had to make that decision,” Corniel said. “We had to think about: ‘Who would be the guy, No. 1, who could make an impact out there; No. 2, who will be willing to do it?’ Not too many high school kids would be willing to do it, especially a three-year starter like Micah. But when I talked to him about it, he was willing to do what was best for the team.”

Jio’s history-making spring followed a winter on the basketball court in which he earned MIL first-team All-Star status in his first varsity season, helping Maui High reach the state tournament.

“It was a surprise when he told me he was going to play,” said Vega, the Sabers’ basketball coach. “It was a great addition. The biggest thing with him is he always wanted to get better. Over the summer, you’re not going to believe this, but there was a lot of rust on his basketball game.

“He, after every game, it was like, ‘What can I do better? I missed here, I didn’t do this.’ It was a constant process of improvement — I think that’s what makes him great.”

Jio showed similar dedication as a student — he was a valedictorian for Maui High after compiling a 4.0 grade-point average, and plans to study vascular technology at Oregon Institute of Technology in the fall.

Jio dedicated his baseball season to his girlfriend, Nawai Kaupe, who will play softball at the University of Washington.

“She was a big part of my development, really,” Jio said. “She always pushes me. We always compete with each other with the batting average — not really with the home runs because I can’t hit home runs. But, yeah, with everything else — we always practice together, throw together. She was a really big part, and this season really was for her.”

During the season, Jio wrote “NK” in the dirt with his bat before each trip to the plate.

“She’s been through everything with me and I just told her at the beginning of the season that I’m going to do that every at-bat,” Jio said. “This season was all for her, every at-bat, every play I made, every run. … I’m really proud of her. I’m really excited go watch her play Pac-12 softball.”

Jio also gained some belief in his ability as a member of the Maui Big League team that won a national title last summer before losing in the world championship game.

“That gave me quite a bit of confidence that I could play against the top players in the world,” he said.

That faith carried over even after Maui High finished third in the MIL baseball regular season — and helped Jio lead the Sabers’ charge to the top.

“It was hiding,” Jio said of Maui High’s potential. “We all knew that we were the best. … We just needed somehow to show it. And it just showed at the right time.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

MIL Boys Athletes of the Year

1990-91–Jason Lopez, Baldwin

1991-92–Kalei Awai, St. Anthony

1992-93–Ray Wilhelm, Baldwin

1993-94–Carlton Okamoto, Baldwin

1994-95–Buddy Perry, Lahainaluna

1995-96–Robert Kemfort, Maui High

1996-97–Bubba McLean, St. Anthony

1997-98–Jansen Medeiros, Lahainaluna

1998-99–Shane Victorino, St. Anthony

2000-01–Kawika Kahui, Baldwin

2001-02–Ikaika Neizman, Lahainaluna, and Kainoa Casco, Lahainaluna

2002-03–Akamu Aki, Baldwin

2003-04–J.J. Eno, Baldwin

2004-05–Bulla Tuzon, Baldwin

2005-06–Tye Perdido, Seabury Hall

2006-07–Manu Adolpho, Molokai

2007-08–Lake Casco, Lahainaluna

2008-09–Reid Hunter, King Kekaulike, and Mana Rosa, Baldwin

2009-10–Brock Shishido, Baldwin

2010-11–Pasoni Tasini, Baldwin

2011-12–Pasoni Tasini, Baldwin

2012-13–Keelan Ewaliko, Baldwin

2013-14–David Rapanot, Molokai

2014-15–Thomas Rosen-St. John, Lahainaluna

2015-16–Laakea Kahoohanohano-Davis, Baldwin

2016-17–Micah Jio, Maui High

Note: No winner selected in 1999-2000