Central Baseball Teams End Season With Eyes On Playoffs
As OIA’s East and West conferences enter the final week of their respective regular seasons, there is still much to be decided for Leilehua, Mililani and Waialua. A look at each team’s “Game of the Week” follows.
Waialua at Aiea, 3 p.m. Wednesday (today)
The Bulldogs have been in playoff mode of late, as they were locked in a battle with Nanakuli for the last berth for the OIA White Conference Tournament. The first meeting between Aiea and Waialua on March 30 was postponed because of rain and will not be made up unless the outcome will have an impact on the final standings and playoff seedings. (If the game is made up, it will be played Saturday.)
Waialua was to play an equally big game over the weekend against Kapolei before turning its attention to Aiea, which was the last remaining undefeated team in the White at press time (April 7). Despite their position, Aiea is very much in the “must-win” mode itself with Kapolei sitting a game back in second place. Na Ali‘i has been the league’s most balanced team throughout 2015, beating their opponents by the average score of 16-1.
Mililani at Campbell, 6:30 p.m. Friday at Hans L’Orange Park
If there are two teams in the state that have truly lived up to all expectations this spring, they are Mililani and Campbell. It is only appropriate that they meet in the regular-season finale.
The Trojans, who have made the D-I state title game each of the past two years, were the West’s last remaining unbeaten team at press time at 8-0. The Sabers were 8-1 with their only setback having come to — you guessed it — Mililani (2-1) last month.
In addition to the regular-season crown likely being decided by the outcome, the top seeds (and first-round byes) for the OIA Red tournament are also on the line.
The Trojans have displayed the kind of late-game grit that fueled their post-season run in 2014, as four of their eight wins came by two runs or less. Solid pitching has played a big role in their success, led by Micah Chinen and Koa Eastlack. Both entered the weekend among the OIA’s leaders in innings pitched. On the offensive side, Sean Sonognini and Jarrin Morikawa have been the mainstays of a productive lineup.
Campbell is led by West Player of the Year candidate Ian Kahaloa. In addition to being the ace of the Sabers’ pitching staff, he entered the weekend as OIA’s leader in runs driven in with 11. The Sabers are hardly a one-man operation in the pitching department; they already have posted six shutouts to date. Indeed, only Waipahu has been able to score more than two runs on Campbell, tallying four in a blowout loss.
Leilehua at Waipahu, 3 p.m. Saturday
Regardless of what Leilehua’s seeding ends up, no team will be eager to face the Mules in the first round of the OIA Red tournament. Although just 3-6 through their first nine league games, the Mules were only a handful of plays from having a much better record. They lost a pair of one-run decisions to league-leader Mililani (by scores of 2-1 and 1-0). Among Leilehua’s wins was a 5-4 success over this same Waipahu team in the West’s first round. With that in mind, expect a playoff-type atmosphere for this game.
When it comes to close losses, Waipahu certainly can feel the Mules’ pain. The Marauders dropped close encounters to Mililani (7-5) and Pearl City twice (4-2 and 3-1), in addition to the loss to Leilehua.
Leilehua pitcher Trayson Kubo has been a standout for the Mules, with an OIA Red Conference-leading 31.7 innings pitched at press time.
Oakland Scanlan has been the workhorse for Waipahu, having logged a team-best 23 innings pitched as of late last week. Offensive struggles have plagued Waipahu this season, as they are 2-1 when scoring five runs or more, and just 1-5 when held to four runs or less.