Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, December 19, 2001


Mililani senior pitcher Johnna Rowland, who was named to the Star-Bulletin's all-state team as a sophomore, has bounced back from injuries to once again dominate.

It’s all in
the approach

Mililani's Johnna Rowland finds
a new weapon in deception

By Jason Kaneshiro

Johnna Rowland has discovered that when it comes to pitching, less is more.

Instead of dabbling with a bunch of pitches, the Mililani senior trimmed her repertoire this season and is relying on deception rather than power to get batters out.

And the change in her approach has helped her return to prominence as one of the best pitchers in the Oahu Interscholastic Association.

"We're making her change speeds more this year," Mililani coach Mike Okimoto said. "Try to hit more spots, make the ball move in and out and change speeds. I think that's what helped her this year. She throws with decent speed, but if the ball moves, that's all you need."

Rowland and her twin sister, Jenna, have helped the Trojans to a 4-0 record in the OIA West Division entering the heart of their schedule.

Rowland picked up a win Monday as Mililani beat Pearl City 7-4. The Trojans host undefeated Campbell today at 3:30 p.m., and travel to Leilehua on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game.

Until Pearl City scored in the bottom of the third inning Monday, Mililani hadn't allowed a run during the regular season.

Mililani's Johnna Rowland, left, and her teammates have gotten off to a 4-0 start in the OIA West Division.

Rowland struck out just four Pearl City batters after sitting down 10 Kapolei hitters in an 8-0 win, but relied on her teammates to help her get out of jams. Her ability to move the ball around the strike zone kept the Chargers off balance, as she induced eight ground outs and four pop-ups.

"I trust my team and I guess that's the key to winning," she said. "You have to trust everybody."

Said Okimoto: "She knew what she had to do. She got a shot and she had to make the most of it. Johnna does that, when she had to make the pitches, she made them."

Rowland, a Star-Bulletin All-State first-team selection as a sophomore, struggled with injuries last season as Miki Asamura emerged as the Trojans' top starter and earned a spot on the All-State second team. Rowland and Asamura, a junior, will share the pitching load for Mililani this season, but Okimoto said he'll give the senior the opportunity to take the ball in the big games.

"Last year was one of her down years," Okimoto said. "She was hurt about half the time with (quadriceps) injuries. And this year, it's her last year. You can see the work ethic and everything has a little bit more put into it."

To that end, Rowland has focused on her best three pitches -- a cut fastball, a screwball and a change-up. But to be effective, she must keep the hitters from getting into a rhythm at the plate by mixing location and speed.

"She's been getting a lot better at changing her speeds, and I think that's going to help us down the road when we reach the playoffs," Okimoto said. "All of the teams will be ready by then, they're going to be seasoned, they're going to hit better. So you really have to stay down and (make them) hit ground balls and hopefully the defense makes the plays."

The Trojans have made more plays than anyone else in the OIA lately as they have captured the last three league championships.

This year, Mililani doesn't have a lineup of heavy hitters, but the Trojans win games by not beating themselves.

"We're doing pretty well with what we've got," senior infielder Karyna Wilkerson said. "We're not the biggest team or have the strongest people, but I think our defense is what's working now."

And with the Trojans building an OIA dynasty, most teams in the OIA West have Mililani circled on their schedules. But being the target for most of their opponents is something the players have learned to deal with.

"We just stay calm and be humble," Rowland said. "That's what (Okimoto) tells us, to be humble, don't forget where you're from and what you represent."

Softball has been a family affair for the Rowland twins since they were 10. While Johnna has made a name for herself as a pitcher, Jenna is a fixture in the Trojan outfield.

"I don't think I could play without my sister," Jenna said.

"If she's not here, I know I'm going to be down," Johnna said. "I love her a lot and we're pretty close. I know she'll back me up if something happens."

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