Mules In Control Of Own Future As Baseball Playoffs Loom

For the Leilehua baseball team, the coming days will be all about sending their senior class out the right way. With that in mind, the Mules are in the post-season mode as they close out their season this week with games against Campbell Friday and Saturday.

The outcome of those games will determine whether or not the Mules can move on in 2012. The top six teams from the OIA Red West make the league’s post-season tournament.

Leilehua was 3-5 through eight games and in a tie with Kapolei for the last playoff spot, heading into last weekend.

“We control our own destiny,” said head coach Lane Watanuki, who is in his fourth year at the helm after a long successful stint at Campbell. “The emphasis is on 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).”

“Our seniors are really special – they’re my first (graduating) class at Leilehua,” he added. “This is their last go-around, and I’m going to miss them. It will be real emotional if and when our season ends.” Those seniors include Dadrian Ah Quin, Bronson Ancheta-Maeda, Aaron-Craig Higa, Josh Lorenzo, Larry Paas, Kenan Sadanaga, Albert Talaroc and Aaron Taoy.

The Mules have had one of the most exciting seasons of any team in the state with six of their games decided by a single run and two others decided by two runs.

“I’ve always been a pitch-and-play-defense-first kind of coach, and those things have been our strength this year,” Watanuki said. “I wish every day that we can hit the ball better, but it’s something we’re always working on.”

Road wins at Waianae in their season-opener and against defending Division I state champion Pearl City last week highlight the Mules’ 2012 resume. They also posted a home win against a good Mililani team. (The Trojans and Mules were to meet Tuesday as well to make up a March 24 rain-out date.)

This week’s series with Campbell will figure big for both schools. The Sabers stood at 4-4 through their first eight games, so their fate also is tied into how they close out their final four contests, much like the Mules.

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

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.