If there is one rule the Honolulu Star-Advertiser goes by when it comes to picking a most valuable player, it’s that there can only be one.
Having two people share that award is something to be avoided. If it’s a close call, the editors in charge will say, “Pick one.”
So it was kinda funny when Star-Advertiser reporter Jason Kaneshiro looked over at me near the end of Campbell’s 12-2 win over Kapolei in the Division I state softball final Friday night and asked, “Who’s your MVP, Jocelyn Alo or Dani Cervantes?”
Good one. Lucky we were not tasked with actually choosing the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. We would just have one vote. The decision would be made by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association with input from various media personnel.
Knowing the usual drill (it had to be just one player), I hesitated a bit before finally answering, “Alo.” She went 7-for-9 with eight RBIs in the tournament and she had a homer and a triple with four RBIs in the championship game.
Sounds like a good choice, right?
But that initial nonbinding answer (and Jason actually did end up writing Alo’s name on our ballot) was with the knowledge that Cervantes, a pitcher, went 3-0 in Campbell’s four tournament wins. She struck out 17 with a one-hitter in the quarterfinals against Kamehameha and fanned nine with no walks in the semifinals against Mililani. In the final, she walked two and struck out four in a three-hitter.
Not a bad choice, either, right?
Before Jason turned our ballot in, Alo smartly got up from her catcher’s crouch to dive and nab Raina Mckean‘s bunt pop-up for the first out in the bottom of the fifth.
“There’s (more ammunition for) your choice,” I said to him.
As it turned out, the HHSAA picked Alo as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and Cervantes made the all-tournament team. That announcement was made just a few moments after Sabers head coach Michael Hermosura said, “Dani and Jocelyn, I hope they give it (most outstanding player) to both.”
In a few weeks, the Star-Advertiser will publish its All-State softball team, and both of those players are among the favorites to become player of the year.
Both were asked who their choice for MVP was after the win over Kapolei.
Cervantes said, “MVP? Hmmm. What do you mean, on the team? Oh boy, they’re all MVPs. Everybody’s an MVP.”
Alo said, “The team.”
“I absolutely love this team,” Alo continued. “I can’t imagine being on a better team.”
Alo was at Kahuku and not part of last year’s team, when the Sabers (18-1) won their first of two straight state crowns. Cervantes was a backup pitcher behind Elisa Favela, last year’s tournament Most Outstanding Player and the Star-Advertiser’s player of the year who also had a big hand on offense in this year’s run to the crown.
It was Cervantes’ first time around the state-tournament block as a starting pitcher.
“I was pretty nervous going into it,” she said. “But, I mean I just came out here and did my thing and we got the win. I know the girls can do it, but the hitting just came around tonight and that’s what we needed.”
She talked about the difference between last year and this year, since she has much more of a role this time around: “There’s a very big difference. I wasn’t used to all of this, and the big crowd and the TV and all of that. It feels good now. I’m used to it.”
Shortstop Chardonnay Pantastico, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored in the final, chimed in about the accomplishment: “I’m super proud of my team and it means a lot for us seniors. We were hungry from the get-go because of how Kapolei beat us (5-4) in the OIA (league title game), so we really wanted to get redemption over here. We just stuck to the plan and we had each other’s back.”
Plenty of Campbell’s girls were crying happy tears. And sentimental tears, too, since the seniors will be graduating, leaving the Sabers’ legacy to the underclassmen.
The tears flowed in the other dugout at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium, too, as a special season came to a halt for Kapolei (15-4).
Holding back tears about 20 minutes after the final out, Hurricanes star shortstop Sala Pedebone said, “I was a little disappointed in my performance, but … . We tried not to show other people that we were giving up because we try to stay peak, meaning positive, it’s our motto. And we did throughout the game. We just fell short.”
Pedebone, who is going to Eastern Arizona to play softball next season, had some nice words for the Sabers: “They’re my friends and I also play with them in outside leagues, so congratulations to them.”