Every impressive win was followed by a comment from the coach that they could have done better.
Interesting. And effective.
Several times during Campbell’s run to the softball state title, coach Michael Hermosura gave some positive postgame comments on his players, but he never overdid it. He always held back a little, and most importantly, ALWAYS said they could play better.
Imagine that you are a player and you just played a great game and you read the next day that the coach wants more.
It worked. These Campbell girls stayed hungry and saved their best at-bats for the last game, a 16-4 romp over Mililani for the Division I state championship Friday at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
It especially worked in the case of Elisa Favela, who won all the big games for the Sabers (17-2) in the pitchers circle. Her bat came to life in the final with a second-inning grand slam and a third-inning three-run shot.
After a few of Favela’s pitching gems in the playoffs, Hermosura said she was “overanxious” at the plate.
Most coaches might be thinking, “Well, we don’t really need her bat anyway. She’s doing enough with her arm.”
But Hermosura knew there was some power in that bat that wasn’t coming to life. Yet.
“The coaches kept telling me to relax, breathe,” Favela said. “I had no clue I was going to hit those homers. I was just trying to get on base.”
Hermosura, for his part, knew he was tough on the team, and they were sure to douse him with Gatorade afterward as payment.
“They swallowed everything we gave them,” Hermosura said. “Whether it was running, throwing, practice itself, the weight room, they did it. We ask a lot of the girls. All they wanted was to be back here in this championship game. They wanted to make a statement and show what they can do as a team.”
Favela mentioned “revenge” afterward. The Sabers were still stinging after losing to Mililani 4-3 in the OIA title game and suffering a loss to the Trojans in last year’s state title game.
“They beat us in the OIAs and we wanted to get them back,” she said. “This feels amazing. I am so proud of all of our girls.”
Sierra Mariano, the designated player whose big bat continued from the regular season through all of the postseason, said, “We didn’t want the same feeling as last year (the state final loss). We wanted our seniors to feel like Mililani did last year.”
The Trojans were gracious in defeat. Third baseman Merilas Rivera gave Favela a high-five on her way around the bases during her second homer. Sportsmanship? Yes. It’s alive.
Rose Antonio, the Mililani coach, gave a nod to the Sabers’ powerful lineup.
“They were seeing the ball, hitting the ball really well. To come out like that, you become state champs,” she said. “They’re an awesome team. They deserve it.”
Mililani starter Aubree Kim — the state pitcher of the year last season — hurt her groin in the semifinals against Maryknoll and the injury was still bothering her in the final.
“That’s the reason we took her out of the game (after two innings with a 9-3 deficit),” Antonio said. “She battled. She gutted it out.”
Mililani (15-3) couldn’t make it two state titles in a row.
“We got here to the state final,” Antonio added. “I’m proud of my kids for what we accomplished this season. A lot of emotions, but the character of this team is awesome.”
Hermosura tipped his cap to the vocal Sabers supporters in the stands and at home in Ewa Beach.
“The community was really strong in support of us,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the community, we wouldn’t have been able to do this. The girls accomplished what they came to do.”