Mid-Pacific won the Division I gold at the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships at Les Murakami Stadium on Tuesday, but as far as the Owls are concerned they’ve had the gold all along.
Gold gloves, that is.
"That was great D," Mid-Pacific shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa said. "I feel like our infield defense is the best in the state. We rarely make errors. Look up there on the scoreboard — no errors."
Kiner-Falefa led the way on defense in the 3-1 win over Mililani, making three stellar plays to stifle the Trojans. His last might have been his best.
"He’s been doing that all year," third baseman Brent Sakurai said. "He is the best shortstop in the state and he proved it tonight."
Kiner-Falefa struck out trying to bunt for a single with runners on first and second and no outs in the top of the seventh, but his mates bailed him out by scoring the deciding runs. The mistake stayed with him when he took the field in the bottom of the inning, and he made the crowd forget all about it when he laid out and snagged a line drive by Travis Maekawa for the first out of the inning.
"I was just trying to back my pitcher up, that’s all I was trying to do," Kiner-Falefa said. "I missed that bunt on the last play. I wanted to make up for that."
Kiner-Falefa started the defensive show in the second inning, when he ranged behind second base to snag a ground ball by Kanoa Wong, set his feet and dove head-first into the bag to get Landon Ogomori and leave the bases loaded.
He did it again the next inning, stopping a hard-hit ball by Sean Sonognini to start a 6-4-3 double play.
"That one was hot. I thought it was a hit," Kiner-Falefa said. "I looked in my glove and I had it, so I was stoked."
Sakurai stabbed a hard line drive to third by Kaiea Badiny with one out in the fourth to help keep the Trojans scoreless.
Mid-Pacific went the whole tournament without committing an error. Mililani’s single error in the game led to two unearned runs in the seventh inning and was the difference.
"(Kiner-Falefa) made a great couple of plays up the middle," Mililani coach Mark Hirayama said. "Even (Sakurai), snagging that line drive down the line that could have been a good thing for us, but a good team makes big plays."
Mililani had its share of web gems in the loss.
Pitcher Kanoa Hironaka would have almost certainly been pitching with a deficit if not for his quick thinking in the third. Mid-Pacific’s Quintin Collier launched a long fly ball to right field that Ogomori caught easily. Cal Muramaru advanced from second to third on the catch, but the throw was off target and zoomed past the bag. Hironaka dove to his left to prevent it from reaching the fence. He saved another run in the seventh by backing up home plate.
Mililani shortstop Troy Kakugawa matched Kiner-Falefa on at least one play, ranging to the second-base side of the bag to throw out Cameron Igarashi on a ground ball and strand a man at second.