Chargers Fighting For OIA Tourney Play

Parity within the OIA Red West Division has ensured that league teams are already in the playoff mode – even though the post-season doesn’t actually begin until April 25.

To be sure, the Pearl City baseball team has been among them in the last two weeks, as its focus was all on positioning themselves for the OIA tournament.

As in past years, the Chargers have set their sights on earning a No. 1 or No. 2 seed out of the West, which would give them a bye for the first round of the tournament and leave them one win away from clinching a berth for the upcoming Division I state tournament.

“It would take a lot of pressure off of our pitching staff, since we would have an extra day (off), and it is also one more day to scout for us (coaching staff),” said head coach Mitchell Yamato. “If you are in the bottom two (of the West or East divisions), you have to win two games to make the state tournament, so it plays a big part. It is real crucial.”

At 5-3 through their first eight games, the Chargers were on schedule to finish either first or second in the league. Aiea stood at 4-2 through six games as of late last week, so Na Ali’i also controls their own destiny as the season winds down this week. (Pearl City has four games remaining – two each with Leilehua and Kapolei.)

The Chargers spent last week trying to shake off a pair of tough losses to Waianae (11-10) and at Campbell (3-1), respectively. Despite the outcome, Yamato has liked the resolve of his team all year, as evidenced by a handful of come-from-behind wins.

“We were down 8-0 in the second inning to Waianae and still had a chance to win,” said Yamato, whose team returns to action Wednesday at home versus Leilehua (3:30 p.m.). “They fight. We’re proud of that. They’ve been working hard day in and day out. I told them yesterday that there’s no reason for us to panic. We were 8-4 a year ago when we started the OIA tournament (en route to winning the DI state title). We just have to keep working, and we’ll see what happens in the end.

“No one has an easy out (in the West),” Yamato added. “Talent across the board seems to be getting better, and it seems like it is more even. The younger communities like Mililani and Kapolei are doing well, and Waianae has a whole bunch of good players, too. As I look at the scores from the East, I don’t see a lot of blowouts. It’s going to be a tough tournament, especially when you get down to the final four.”