There is not much separating Campbell baseball from Mililani baseball.
That’s always how it is out in the OIA West. The two are at it again. No. 8 Campbell came through with a 1-0 victory over No. 7 Mililani in the season opener at the Trojans’ field on Wednesday.
Pitching and defense and taking advantage of whatever you can take advantage of on offense.
Mililani had a total of four base runners and two of them got as far as second base because of sacrifice bunts in the sixth and seventh innings. Coach Mark Hirayama played the percentages and any bit of good fortune could have brought the tying run home. But — no luck.
The Sabers had a bit of fortune with the run they scored, but came up empty-handed with runners in scoring position five times. Those are the kind of things that can drive coaches nuts. However, the sober-minded Rory Pico, if he is upset, isn’t showing it. Instead, he said, “we couldn’t clutch up.”
Credit the pitching on both sides. Right-hander Jamin Kalaola was masterful for Campbell, throwing a two-hitter with four strikeouts and no walks. Two Mililani pitchers were nearly as effective — left-hander Charles Winchester gave up six hits and the only run while striking out three, and reliever Cole Mayeshiro didn’t allow a hit or a run and struck out three.
But it was the way the run scored that made the ultimate difference, and the proverbial baseball Gods were shining on the visitors. Shayden Sabangan did the most work for the third-inning winning run, reaching on an infield grounder. He took second on Ikaika Ganancial‘s single and third on Dylan Ramon‘s sacrifice bunt.
Pico told Sabangan — a junior who was brought up to the varsity late last season and is the Sabers’ leadoff batter — to watch for a wild pitch or a passed ball.
“Coach gave me the head’s up,” Sabangan said.
Sure enough, a pitch from Winchester to Kalaola was a swinging third strike that bounced in front of catcher Korrey Siracusa. Sabangan didn’t hesitate and motored toward the plate. Siracusa went after the bounding ball, tried to pick it up but couldn’t get a throw off to Winchester at the plate.
That’s it. 1-0. That’s Campbell vs. Mililani.
Siracusa said afterward that he thought he had a play at the plate and — if it wasn’t Sabangan coming down the line — he believes Campbell wouldn’t have scored.
As usual, both teams are trying to get to the state tournament. A year ago, Campbell lost to eventual D-I state champion Maui 6-4 in the semifinals. Mililani was also eliminated by Maui — 12-2 in five innings in the quarters.
“We lost a bunch of starters from last year,” Pico said. “We also have a lot of key guys back. We have some guys who need to step up into big roles and we’re giving the opportunity to all the guys to show us what they can do and those who execute and makes plays are going to get in the games.”
Siracusa, who threw out two runners trying to steal second base, isn’t putting too much stock in a 1-0 loss to Campbell this early in the season.
“We were undefeated in the preseason until the Mid-Pac tournament final,” he said. “We ran into a good pitcher. Jamin is one of the best in the state. We will have to make adjustments when we face guys like that. It’s still early in the season and anything can happen with our team. We’ll see them one more time. We’ll play better then and see what happens.”