Leilehua And Mililani Major Threats In Baseball Title Hunt

For Leilehua and Mililani, the “second season” officially begins this week with the Division I state baseball tournament Tuesday-Friday at Iron Maehara Stadium on Maui. (Pairings for the tournament were to be released over the weekend.) A look at both Leilehua’s and Mililani’s prospects follows.

Leilehua High

Regular season record: 6-10 overall (2-3 at home, 4-5 on the road, 0-2 on a neutral field)

How they got here: The Mules opened the OIA post-season tournament with an upset of East No. 3 seed Moanalua and followed with a win over Waipahu in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals, thus ensuring one of the league’s five state berths.

Leilehua finished fourth in the OIA after being edged out by Mililani and Kailua in the semis and third-place game, respectively.

Signature wins: Over Mililani (3-0) March 8; over Mililani (9-6) April 3; over Moanalua (4-3) April 24; over Waipahu (3-1) April 25

Players to watch: Seniors Brandon Smithe, Cody Academia and Ian Kaopua

What to watch: The Mules prove that it is how you finish, not how you start. The team shook off a three-game losing streak to open its OIA slate and endured a four-game skid at mid-season, but enters the state tournament having won four of its last seven.

The losses to Kailua and Mililani also were winnable in that stretch, which figures to make Leilehua one of the more dangerous first-round opponents in the field.

This is the school’s second straight state tournament appearance under head coach Lane Watanuki.

Mililani High

Regular season record: 9-7 overall (3-4 at home, 4-2 on the road, 2-1 on a neutral field)

Signature wins: Over Campbell (6-2) April 13; over Castle (1-0) April 25; over Leilehua (5-4) April 26.

How they got here: The Trojans were impressive at the recent OIA tournament, posting wins over Kalani, Castle and Leilehua to reach the title game, guaranteeing themselves one of the league’s five state berths.

Although Mililani was defeated by Red West regular-season champion Campbell in the OIA title game, Mililani still bring plenty of momentum into this week.

Players to watch: Cole Nakachi, Troy Kakugawa, Kanoa Wong, Trevor Inouye and Presley Alcover

What to watch: With wins in four of its last five games, Mark Hirayama’s team enters this week’s state tournament playing about as well as anyone in the field.

As with most prep baseball outfits, pitching and defense remain the key for this group, as Mililani is 9-1 this spring in games in which they hold the opponent to three runs or less. The Trojans also have fared well in close encounters, having gone 4-1 in games decided by two runs or less.

This week marks Mililani’s fourth state tournament appearance in the last five years.