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Mililani's climb to top never came easy


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POSTED: Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mililani's second state softball championship wasn't built this week, nor in the past two months.

For the Trojans, who won the Division I crown on Friday with a 6-2 win over Roosevelt, it goes back years, from coach Rose Antonio to her predecessor, Mike Okimoto. From all-world shortstop Courtney Senas to hard-luck ace Makani Duhaylonsod.

               

     

 

STATE SOFTBALL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

Division I

       

IF: Courtney Senas, Mililani; Leisha Liilii, Castle; Kristi Oshiro, Mililani; Tehani Kaaihue, Kapolei

       

OF: Kalena Lessary, Castle; Glenelle Nitta, Mililani; Jaimee Aiwohi, Mililani

       

C: Lindsay Takekawa, Roosevelt

       

P: Kishti Kamaka, Mililani; Keiki Carlos, Mid-Pacific; Lianna Bajarin, Roosevelt; Katie Manuma, Campbell

       

Most outstanding player: Senas

       

Division II

       

IF: Rayna Strom Okimoto, Aiea; Krysta Yasui, Kaiser; Jessica Iwata, Kauai; Melia Aki, Kauai

       

OF: Alyssa Carvalho, Kauai; Ciarra Balidoy, Waialua; Kaina Mossman, Kamehameha-Hawaii

       

C: Chelsy Okuma, Kaiser

       

P: Wailana Borrero, Kauai; Marissa Keao, Waialua; Kiani Wong, Kamehameha-Hawaii

       

Most outstanding player: Iwata

       

It's also about work ethic in the middle of the offseason. On a sweltering hot August afternoon, Kristi Oshiro stood there taking swing after swing at the Trojans' softball facility. Just Oshiro, Mililani's all-state second baseman, taking cuts with her dad tossing her pitches.

The coaching pedigree has always been there in Antonio, Okimoto and nose-to-the-grindstone assistants like Joe Lee. Fielding has always been solid. There may not be a better fielder in the infield than Celina “;C.J.”; Garces, the third baseman with a vacuum cleaner of a glove. Pitching has been proficient again thanks to former vagabond Kishti Kamaka, who went from Mililani to Kapolei to St. Francis and back to Mililani over her four seasons.

The Trojans were also errorless through three games before committing a couple of boo-boos in the state final. Kamaka knew her defense well and gives her team complete trust. Working her sweeping breaking pitches and fastballs, she won four games, pitched 26 innings, allowed just 17 hits and had a minuscule ERA of 0.54. She also fanned 14 batters and walked six.

“;I knew I could count on my defense,”; she said.

What this team did, even more than other Trojan squads, was hit in the clutch with a lineup of contact hitters top to bottom. Campbell's ace was the one pitcher who kept a lid on the Trojans, who had just four hits against her in the opening round. A seventh-inning comeback, spurred by two Campbell errors, allowed Mililani to score all of its runs in a 4-2 win.

From there, the Trojans offense was on fire. Eleven hits against Waiakea. Thirteen hits off 'Iolani ace Brittney Guro. Then 11 more hits vs. Roosevelt's Lianna Bajarin, who had beaten Mililani in the OIA Red final one week earlier.

“;I can say that throughout OIAs, we didn't play our best game, but at states, we really peaked at the right time,”; Antonio said. “;Defensively, we were solid.”;

Mililani hit .342 in the tournament. Glenelle Nitta switched from No. 8 to No. 6 in the order and hit .500 (6-for-12) and drove in four runs. Jaimee Aiwohi, Garces and Oshiro each hit .385 (5-for-13). Catcher Rebecca Lee managed .313.

“;It was the most balanced (lineup). We get runners on base, everyone in the lineup can bunt, so we move the runner up and anybody in the lineup can drive the runner in,”; Antonio said.

Senas, the tournament's most outstanding player, batted .727 (8-for-11) with three doubles and scored six runs. The junior shortstop also walked four times and had an on-base percentage of .800. Best of all, she didn't lose her cool after dropping a tough pop-up in short left field — a play that allowed Roosevelt to take a 2-1 lead in the third.

“;It was my fault they scored two runs. I had to do something,”; said Senas, who finished 2-for-3 with three runs. “;I was nervous, but I was putting my trust in God.”;

Prayer is something the Trojans have come to know well, both on the field after Antonio's postgame talks, and off the field. Senas' father, Chad, is fighting cancer again. The Senas ohana would like to send him to City of Hope, a cancer treatment facility in California.

Courtney, the latest in a line of outstanding athletes from the Senas clan, had a highly successful, if bittersweet season for the champion Trojans.

“;I'd tell him I love him,”; she said of her dad. “;Now that the season's over, I can spend time with him. Sometimes I cry because of softball, being at practice and games. I'm sorry it's like that. He knows, though.”;

Chad Senas was there, of course, along with the rest of his family at every Mililani game. Wheeling around on his motorized wheelchair, he's a fixture among Trojans supporters.

A fundraising dinner and silent auction will be held today, 5-9 p.m., at the school cafetorium.

“;We dedicated the season to him,”; said Antonio, who has coached Chad's daughters for many of the years she's been at Mililani as a head coach and assistant.

“;He has a lot of will and a lot of heart. That guy is amazing.”;