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Trojans, Mules In Fine Form For OIA Red Baseball Tournament

If neither Leilehua nor Mililani wins this week’s OIA Red tournament, they will likely have a huge say in who does emerge as champion.

Both teams enter the post-season playing their best baseball. Indeed, if the last two weeks of the season proved anything, it’s that they should be major factors in the playoffs, which begin Wednesday across Oahu. (Matchups and locations were still to be determined at press time, but Mililani is assured of hosting a quarterfinal game at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.)

The semifinals and title game will be Friday and Saturday, respectively, at Hans L’Orange Field in Waipahu. The top six OIA finishers earn berths for the Division I state tournament May 13-16 at Les Murakami Stadium at UHManoa.

Leilehua Mules

Season record: 6-6 in the OIA Red West

Key wins: Over Mililani 5-3 March 22, over Aiea 3-2 April 12, over Waipahu 6-5 April 18, over Campbell 5-3 April 22

Mules at a glance: With only 11 days remaining in the season, the Mules stood at 2-6 with their playoff hopes in jeopardy. That all changed quickly as they reeled off four straight wins over Aiea, Pearl City, Waipahu and season champion (and previously undefeated) Campbell to secure the league’s No. 3 seeding.

With more momentum behind them now than any other team in the West, the Mules would appear primed for a deep run in the tournament if they can stay the course.

The team’s best attribute to date has been its ability to win the close games, as its 6-1 in games decided by two runs or less and a perfect 4-0 in games decided by a single run. Leadoff hitter Ricky Van Gelder (.444) and Jonah Pass (.382), who hits in the No. 3 spot, have both been key contributors.

Mililani Trojans

Season record: 7-5 in the OIA Red West

Key wins: Over Waipahu 1-0 March 11, over Leilehua 6-0 March 9, over Aiea 10-1 April 19

Trojans at a glance: Like neighboring Leilehua, Mililani went on a win streak of its own to close out its Red West slate, winning four straight to secure the second seed from the division as well as the all-important first-round bye for Wednesday (and a home game in their quarterfinal matchup Thursday).

The late-season run is reminiscent of last spring when Mililani surged all the way to the state title game. The Trojans come battle-tested into this week’s tournament, as eight of their games were decided by two runs or less. (Mililani went 5-3 in those encounters.) Solid defense and dominant pitching helped fuel a four-game win streak, as it outscored opponents 23-5 during that stretch. Jarrin Morikawa (.444), Jensen Kim (.313) and Justice Nakagawa (.382) have been among the offensive leaders of late.

jackster.1969@yahoo.com

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