Area Teams Are In ‘Must-win’ Mode As OIA West Wraps

Leilehua baseball head coach Lane Watanuki spent 20 seasons heading up the Campbell program and is still a faculty member there.

This week, however, the Sabers stand in the path of his Mules, and potentially their playoff hopes.

Not surprisingly, everyone seems to be in the “must-win” mode in the OIA Red West as the league season finishes up this weekend. With the exception of leader Aiea, which was 6-2 through eight games with four still to play heading into last weekend, no one is breathing easily over the playoff picture.

The top six teams from the Red West make the league’s post-season tournament, leaving one school as the odd team out.

“All the games are big,” said Watanuki. “All the teams in the West are still in contention. We all have a shot. It shows the parity in the league. It’s good for the league and the OIA overall.”

For its part, Leilehua was 3-5 through eight games and in a tie with Kapolei for the last playoff spot.

“We control our own destiny,” said Watanuki, who is in his fourth year at the helm after his long, successful stint at Campbell.

“The emphasis is on our getting into the playoffs. After we lost a pair to Aiea, we knew we had to start catching up or start preparing for next season. We’re on the bubble (for the post-season).”

The Sabers also need a solid series against Leilehua this weekend to solidify their own position, having gone 4-4 through their first eight games. Campbell has played perhaps as well as any team of late, having won four of their last five heading into last weekend. Included in that span was a sweep of Kapolei, a home win versus Pearl City, and a road win versus a good Waianae team.

To date, the best story in the proud league has been Aiea, which has put together a pair of three-game win streaks to move to the top of the league standings. Indeed, Aiea is perhaps only a couple of plays away from being undefeated, as both losses (to Pearl City and Waianae) were by one run each.

Aiea has a huge series with Mililani at 3:30 p.m. Friday (away) and at 2 p.m. Saturday (at home) with a potential top-seed and first-round bye within sight.

Defending Division I state champion Pearl City, which was 5-4 through nine games, will play Kapolei at 3:30 p.m. Friday (home) and 2 p.m. Saturday (away) in an equally big series.

Pairings for the OIA tournament, which begins next week, will be finalized late on Saturday.

The top five teams from the OIA receive the league’s berths for the upcoming Division I state tournament.

Last season, Leilehua, Mililani and Pearl City earned state tournament berths from the Red West.