Sometimes, making the best of circumstances is all that matters.
When the Campbell Sabers left class early and boarded the bus from Ewa Beach to Hawaii Kai, there was no time to have lunch. They had sandwiches en route to Kaiser High School, a 32-mile journey on a busy Thursday afternoon.
There was also pizza.
“It was Pizza Hut. ‘Meat Lovers’ style,” ace pitcher Taryn Irimata said.
The senior right-hander must’ve enjoyed her lunch. Irimata had five slices of the meat lovers pizza — matching her jersey number — then fired a two-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts as Campbell blanked Kaiser, 5-0, and secured a state-tournament berth. She fed the Cougars a steady diet of fastballs, painting the corners and getting stronger, it appeared, with each passing inning.
Paige Nakashima came through with three RBIs, including a crucial two-run single that boosted the Sabers’ lead to 3-0 in the fourth inning. Campbell’s defense was flawless with no errors.
The win was well-earned and a bit of a relief for a Campbell squad that had lost five games by a total of seven runs in the OIA West gauntlet. With a new, synthetic turf field and facilities, Irimata and her teammates have gradually made the adjustment. She does miss the feel of plain old dirt.
“It’s turf. It’s really pretty, but as a pitcher, I find it hard to play on just because there’s no dirt to pick up when my hand gets slippery. It’s constantly slipping out of my hand. I have a resin bag, but it doesn’t really do much so I have to keep wiping on my pants,” she said. “But (the field) is easy to take care of. We have bathrooms now.”
The good news for Irimata, who is having another stellar season, is that the remaining OIA playoffs and state tourney are on dirt (skin) infields and mounds. Veteran coach Shag Hermosura sees the beauty of the new facility and its enduring allure.
“As a head coach it’s kind of awkward because it doesn’t feel like a baseball or softball field. I’ve been playing a dirt field and grass field for the longest time. It’s a good thing,” he said. “Hopefully, in years to come, players get used to it and we can draw more people to the school. No bad hops, it’s all true hops and the ball stays down, it’s going to run. It’s not going jump.”
The Sabers will meet rival Kapolei in the semifinals at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium on Friday afternoon. The Hurricanes beat Campbell twice during the regular season.
“I like how they’re a very strong team overall. I like the challenge that they give us,” Irimata said. “They have very aggressive and smart batters, which makes it fun and challenging for me. And they also have a really good pitcher and the defense to back her up.”
No. 6 Campbell and No. 4 Kapolei square off at 5 p.m., followed by No. 2 Mililani and No. 6 Leilehua. The Sabers and Mules are tied for the sixth spot in the Top 10. Mililani advanced to the semifinal round with a forfeit win over Pearl City. Kapolei ousted Waianae, 7-1.
Thursday’s losing teams are still in the hunt for state berths. Kalani will host Pearl City and Kaiser will entertain Waianae on Friday. The winners will earn the last two state berths allotted to the OIA, which has six berths in all.