Campbell junior Kaimana Savaiinaea gave a masterful closing performance Wednesday in the Sabers’ 4-1 baseball victory over Aiea.
With the bases loaded and just one out, the 6-foot-3 Savaiinaea faced heavy-duty pressure and got through it in textbook fashion.
Of his nine pitches, seven were strikes, and the only contact made was a foul ball. The two batters he faced went down on strikes and the Sabers breathed a lot easier with the victory in hand.
Now, according to coach Glenn Flores, one more victory in the Sabers’ final three regular-season games would clinch at least second place in the OIA West and a first-round bye in the league playoffs.
“We just might have found our closer,” Flores said.
Campbell was fortunate to finally figure out Aiea right-hander John Navarro, who had a no-hitter going through three innings and wound up allowing seven hits in going the distance in the loss.
Na Alii (5-4), which had beaten the Sabers 8-3 earlier this year, was going for a sweep that would have pushed them closer to Campbell (8-1) in the standings.
The Sabers are in a dogfight with Mililani, which is 8-2 after losing to Leilehua on Wednesday night. Next Wednesday, Mililani and Campbell go at it at the Trojans’ home field in a game that could decide the division crown.
“We’ve got a good chance in the playoffs,” said Savaiinaea, who earned the save Wednesday. “Everyone is mentally prepared, working hard and coming together.
Na Alii trailed 4-0 before scoring its only run off the second of three Campbell pitchers, Dayton Robinson, in the seventh and threatening for more.
“Aiea’s a tough team,” Flores said. “They beat us in the first round and we knew they were going to come in here and be tough again. He (Navarro) kept us off balance. We tried to make him throw more, but we weren’t patient enough. Eventually, it worked out.”
Campbell ace left-hander Ayzek Silva didn’t allow a run in his six innings and struck out nine, but he fell behind a lot in the counts and Flores felt the need to send in relief help.
Ryan Kato, the Aiea coach, watched his team fail to produce with the bases loaded in the first and seventh innings.
“They’ll bounce back,” he said about his team. “They’re a resilient group. They have the work ethic and passion. It sucks now. Tomorrow, we’ll be back at it again and will be recovered.”
Kato is hoping his team can learn by repetition of situations in practice.
“Clutch situations that we didn’t come through in, we have to do what we can in practice to put us in that situation so the tension is not so high,” he said. “Try and put themselves in game situations. The mind doesn’t know what is actually real; that is why you meditate and visualize. Make it pressure-packed at practice and the chances are better that you’ll be ready for it in games because you’ve done it already.”