Trojans’ Youthful Experience Make Them An OIA Force
The fourth year is often the payoff year when rebuilding a prep athletic program. In Mililani’s case, the baseball Trojans appear right on schedule.
Mililani enters its season having made the state tournament in each of the past three years under head coach Mark Hirayama. It returns perhaps its most talented group yet. Above all, their success has been a result of the program’s ability to attract “character” kids, to hear the coach tell it.
“We have really good kids who have dedicated themselves and who work hard,” said Hirayama, who led Mililani to an 11-6 record last season (9-3 versus host Oahu Interscholastic Association teams). “It’s getting easier every year. We rely a lot on the older kids to teach the younger guys how we do things, and it perpetuates itself.”
Mililani’s preseason will continue Wednesday when the Trojans play OIA foe Leilehua in a game that is part of the Richard Kitamura (Mid-Pacific) Tournament. The tournament continues Friday when Mililani hosts a yet-to-be-determined team. On Saturday, the tournament shifts to MidPac, where the Trojans will play another game. Mililani also will play against an All-Star team from Southern California Thursday at Central Oahu Regional Park.
The Kitamura Tournament will hold extra intrigue for the Trojans, since fellow OIA West teams Aiea and Waianae are also in Mililani’s bracket in addition to neighboring Leilehua.
“There are no secrets (when playing league opponents), it comes to playing baseball and executing,” Hirayama said. “Everybody knows everything about everybody.”
For their part, the Trojans may have one of the most talented junior classes in the state, with several players having been big contributors last season as sophomores. Infielder Troy Kakugawa, catcher Jameson Madrid and pitchers Kanoa Hironaka and Cristian Namoca are among that group.
“Troy will be one of our leaders in the infield,” said Hirayama. “He’s a bright young kid with a good head on his shoulders. He understands the game well and is like a coach on the field. Jameson is a real good athlete. He’s played first base, and he’s spent some time on the mound. He worked hard in the off-season to get a shot at being our (starting) catcher.
“Kanoa will probably be one of our better pitchers,” he added of Hironaka. “He worked out a lot in the off-season and became stronger, so we hope he can help us out at the plate as well. We’re looking at Cristian as being our No. 1 pitcher (in the rotation). He’s not overpowering, but he understands how to pitch and can change speeds.”
While relatively young eligibility-wise, the Trojans are a seasoned team with so many starters having logged extensive playing time as underclassmen.
“Overall, most of these guys have been playing in the program year-round, including spring and the American Legion Leagues,” Hirayama said. “Their dedication to baseball and to our program has been outstanding. Hopefully, it will show with their increased level of play.”
Mililani begins its regular season March 3, when the Trojans visit Campbell for a doubleheader.