WAILUKU » Five unearned runs in the top of the sixth inning — with three errors by Hilo — lifted unseeded Mililani to an 8-6 win Friday in the semifinal round of the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships at Iron Maehara Stadium.
The Trojans face Mid-Pacific today in their first ever state baseball title game. Until Friday, the Trojans had never won a semifinal game, having lost in their only previous appearance in 1987.
"We were lucky tonight, made a lot of mistakes, but the guys battled and they believe in what we’re doing. It’s just a testament to them that they’ve gotten to this point," Trojans coach Mark Hirayama said.
DIVISION I BASEBALL STATE TOURNAMENT
At Iron Maehara Stadium
Pearl City 2, Leilehua 2
Two-hour time limit; Pearl City advances by winning coin toss
Baldwin 7, Kailua 5
Maui 3, Waiakea 1
Mid-Pacific 2, Campbell 1
Mililani 8, Hilo 6
‘Iolani vs. Pearl City, 9 a.m.
Baldwin vs. Maui, noon
Campbell vs. Hilo, 3 p.m.
Mid-Pacific vs. Mililani, 6 p.m.
The score was tied at 3 entering the sixth, and Hilo starting pitcher Kody Kaniho was just one out away from retiring the side. That’s when second baseman Tyler Higa-Gonsalves sat back on a slow grounder by Sean Sonognini, and then hurried the throw to first, misfiring for an error. That ignited the Trojans, who loaded the bases after an error by Hilo third baseman Elijah Cruz. Travis Maekawa then singled off first baseman Jodd Carter to score Sonognini from third.
Ekolu Ramos delivered the big blow with a double to left, clearing the bases. Ramos also scored on the play after catcher Chayce Kaaua’s throw to third sailed high, giving the Trojans an 8-3 lead.
"I was down in the count and I just tried to put it in play," said Ramos, who has been playing with a torn meniscus in his knee since the end of football season.
All five runs off Kaniho in the sixth were unearned.
It was far from over, though. Hilo scored three times in the bottom of the sixth, getting a two-run double to deep right by Carter.
"After Jodd hit that double, I just tried to throw strikes," said Troy Kakugawa, who moved from shortstop to pitcher to get the save.
Mililani jumped on Kaniho for two runs in the top of the first inning. A Hilo error set up the Trojans, who got run-scoring singles from Jamesson Madrid and Ramos.
The Vikings answered with a run in the bottom of the first. A throwing error by Kakugawa at shortstop on a double-play attempt allowed Kaaua to score from second base.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the BIIF champions.
"You begin the season with goals, and not reaching it is tough. We thought the state title was ours to lose," coach Tony DeSa said. "Our guys kept battling. Physical mistakes will happen, but we fought and battled."
Hilo took the lead with two runs in the second. Mililani pitcher Presley Alcover issued two walks and hit a batter. One of the walks, to Higa-Gonsalves, and the hit batter (Kaaua) forced in runs with the bases loaded.
Mililani tied it at 3 in the top of the fifth on Kaiea Badiny’s two-out single to center, scoring Sonognini from third.
The most bizarre play of the game came in the bottom of the fifth. Carter doubled and went to third on a wild pitch as Alcover tired. But on a fourth-ball pitch to Makana Josue-Ma’a that was wild and bounced to the backstop, Carter sprinted for home. Madrid, the catcher, hustled after the ball, which bounced right to him off the backstop. He made the throw to Alcover covering home plate, and Alcover made the tag on Carter, who came in standing up instead of sliding.
"As soon as I turned around, the ball came to me pretty quick so I knew I had a chance," Madrid said. "I don’t think (Carter) was expecting the throw at all."
After Alcover permitted two more baserunners, he was done. Cole Nakachi took over and got the third out to end the threat.
Mililani beat Mid-Pacific in a preseason game that involved mostly backup players on both sides.
"We’ll just play our game and take it one step at a time, believe in each other," said Madrid, who is slated to start on the mound for the first time since the OIA regular season.
At Iron Maehara Stadium
Kody Kaniho, Jordan Tagawa (7) and Jamesson Madrid.
Presley Alcover, Cole Nakachi (5), Troy Kakugawa (7) and Chayce Kaaua.
W–Nakachi. L–Kaniho. S–Kakugawa.
Leading hitters–Mililani: Madrid 3-4, RBI, run; Ekolu Ramos 2-4, double, 3 RBIs, run; Kaiea Badiny 2-4, double, RBI. Hilo: Jodd Carter 3-4, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs; Elijah Cruz 2-3.