By: Wes Nakama
Campbell cooled off a hot Leilehua team Friday night, 10-3, to win its first OIA baseball championship since 2015.
A lively and vocal crowd of about 800 fans at Les Murakami Stadium watched the Sabers finish 13-2 in league play and secure the OIA’s top seed and first round bye in next week’s Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA State Championships at the same venue. The Mules, who had won seven of their previous eight games, fell to 9-6 and will begin first round play on Tuesday.
Leilehua started hot on Friday, jumping to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Zane Winter’s two-run double to right field, but Campbell responded immediately with four runs on the bottom of the inning, scoring on bases-loaded walks by Shaveh Sarono and Hunter Lindsey followed by Shaun-Lee Saito’s two-run single to center.
The Sabers then extended the lead to 7-2 in the fourth, after two errors with runners on base and Ridge Choy’s RBI single. Defensively, Campbell played errorless — and sometimes spectacular — defense.
“The bottom line is they made the plays, so we’re very fortunate,” Sabers coach Wayne Nagamine said. “They were pretty much focused in once we started playing, even though we got behind (early). It’s a team win, different people came through for us at different times, and it’s just awesome.”
Campbell extended the lead to 10-2 in the sixth, after a pickoff error and RBI singles from Lindsey and Kayne Carlos. The Mules staged one last threat in the seventh, after Pono Arindain was hit by a pitch to lead off, advanced to third on two walks and scored on a wild pitch. But with the bases loaded and two outs, closer Kalaeloaloa Kalua snagged a sharp line drive to end the game.
“It was just one of those days, where it wasn’t our night,” Leilehua coach Brandon Kon said. “(Down 7-2), at that point, now we gotta swing and drive runs in with base hits. We took a different, varied attack through the second half of the season, but when we’re down that much, it kind of takes the bunt out of the game. But credit Campbell — their pitching staff is deep, they have good players all over the field. We gave it our best, we just came up short.”
Ten walks by four different pitchers, plus the three errors, did not help the Mules’ cause. But Nagamine said Leilehua, which began the OIA West season at 2-4, is a team to watch in next week’s state tournament.
“They are dangerous, and you know what, they’re hot,” Nagamine said. “They showed it in the first inning, we had to make better pitches, and the kids did and we got some outs. Fortunately we came back and scored some runs in the bottom half.”
The Sabers showed that composure throughout the OIA season, winning several close games and proving they can overcome deficits.
“They believe in themselves, they believe in each other, and they keep moving on,” Nagamine said. “I’ve seen it all season … when we break down, we don’t always play perfect baseball, but in the end, we’re right there. And it’s not just the guys that get in the game, it’s (also) the guys that are on the bench — they help us out in practice and give a lot of energy in the games, and that is so important, because everybody thrives off each other.”
“In practice, the kids are just pushing each other to get better, in a friendly way. These kids work hard in the weight room, they work hard in the field, they work hard in their classes. And also, they find time to get together and do their own thing. So they got close, which is a good thing.”
Photos: Grant Shishido