Mililani Baseball Readies For American Legion Ball

The turnaround between the end of the high school baseball season and the beginning of the Trojans’ American Legion League season was brief for Mark Hirayama — covering a mere three days. The veteran head coach wouldn’t have it any other way. Baseball remains an all consuming interest for him.

“(Coaching) is a great way to give back,” Hirayama said. “It’s an opportunity to mentor kids and teach life’s lessons.”

Hirayama and the Trojans hardly had time to reflect on another stellar high school season before getting back to work last Tuesday.

Mililani finished fourth in the Division I State Tournament, marking the third straight year the Trojans finished in the top four in the state after runner- up finishes the past two seasons. Mililani also took second (to Campbell) in the OIA Division I Tournament and finished with a 14-5 overall record.

The Trojans began 2015 with a nine-game win streak, which helped them eventually secure the No. 2 seed from the West in the OIA Tournament.

“We try to peak at the right time,” Hirayama said. “Defensively and pitching- wise, we were solid all year. We struggled at times at the plate. The total number of hits was not high, but we were able to get key hits at the right time.”

The Trojans’ 2015 season was a fitting end for one of the most successful senior classes to pass through the school.

“This group of kids has elevated the expectations in the program, and that’s been contagious with our kids coming up in the JV program,” Hirayama said of his senior class. “It’s been great to see them grow and an honor to help in their development.”

Mililani’s class of 2015 included Micah Chinen, Adam Connell, Ty De Sa, Derren Iha, Ross Kloetzel, Reece Matsukawa, Ty Matsumoto, Kyle Matsuoka, Jarrin Morikawa, Justice-Colby Nakagawa, Stewart Okazaki, Sean Sonognini, Kainoa Wilson, Phillip Winchester and Brysen Yoshii.

Sonognini and Nakagawa were both three-year starters, having been part of the Trojans’ runner-up teams in 2013 and 2014.

“Justice is a good ball player,” Hirayama said. “He’s a fantastic fielder with great hands who can make all the routine plays. At the plate, he’s going to get better hitting-wise with some of the things he’s been working on. It looks like he’ll be moving on to play for HPU. He’ll definitely be successful at the next level.”

Sonognini was the team’s catcher and one of Mililani’s leaders.

“Sean’s a competitive kid,” Hirayama said of Sonognini, who will attend Skagit Valley Community College in Washington. “He’s a strong kid with a good work ethic. I would think that he was one of the best catchers in the state. He also batted in the No. 3 spot. As a team leader, he has the respect of his teammates.”

In the coming weeks, American Legion League play will keep the Trojans busy as they begin work toward 2016. Mililani will have two teams competing in the 19-and-under division this summer as well as a team in the 17-and-under division.

“The process is never finished,” Hirayama said. “We’ll lose quite a bit, including Micah, our No. 1 pitcher, but we do have (Koa) Eastlack back and a couple of guys in the (bull) pen who will develop. The summer will be big for us, as far as developing guys to fill the holes.”

Mililani will begin American Legion League play Wednesday. The Trojans’ 17-and-under team will visit Kalani, while Mililani’s 19-and-under teams will play games at Central Oahu Regional Park against Saint Louis and Kamehameha, respectively. All three games begin at 4:30 p.m.