No. 3 Campbell had the psychological edge Tuesday against No. 9 Pearl City. Winning breeds winning and the Sabers, who are three-time defending Division I state champions, were playing on their home field.
And the Sabers are a good team again this year. But how good? There are a lot of young faces in the lineup … just like Pearl City.
So when those two teams met Tuesday, there was a pretty good chance fans were in for a good, old-fashioned, close to the vest game. And that is what they got in Campbell’s 5-4 victory.
The pitching was there for both sides, if not completely stellar. The same about defense and hitting. Basically, two evenly matched teams trying to find themselves early in the season.
Campbell had the upper hand throughout, trailing only once — 1-0 in the first inning. But Pearl City never stopped scrapping and, after losing the lead, got it back to 2-2 briefly. A big throwing mistake cost the Chargers during a three-run fifth that gave Campbell a 5-2 lead. And then Pearl City pushed two runners home in the sixth before leaving the bases loaded.
It was that close. For sure, it could have gone either way, as is the case with most of the OIA West this year. The conference is logjammed at the top with five teams within a game of first-place Campbell, which is the only one-loss team at 3-1. Leilehua and Kapolei are both 3-2 after the Hurricanes beat the Mules 8-3 on Tuesday. Pearl City, Mililani and Waianae are all 2-2.
“Driving in runs and hitting,” Sabers coach Michael Hermosura said, when asked what his team needs the most. “We get runners on, but the hitters gotta drive them in.”
In the pitcher’s circle, Chloe Sales, a sophomore, has not been fully tested yet, but she went the distance for the complete-game win.
“If she hits her spots like she can, she can be a big pitcher now and in the future,” Hermosura said. “We’re a young team, too. We’ve got to find the people for leadership for this team to come around. Hopefully, slowly, we can peak and not peak too fast.”
For the Chargers, all the pieces are there, but like Hermosura, coach Chad Obara is breaking in many fresh faces to the lineup. His two pitchers — Maiyah Faleafine-Lesu and Jozayah Iriarte — are freshmen.
“Those two freshmen have come a long way since the JV season,” Obara said. “We’ve challenged them to step up and so far, they’ve been progressing. I believe in pitching and defense. Both aspects are faltering here and there. If we can clean up those two areas … We’re going to make mistakes on D, you gotta expect that. In the circle, we’re going to make mistakes and you gotta expect that. Can we deal with it, that’s the question mark.”
The OIA West wars continue Saturday, when Campbell visits Mililani, and Pearl City hosts Waianae. The narrative — with close, well-played games — is not expected to change much between now and the end of the OIA slate April 14.