It was muggy hot in Kapolei on Friday, and a bunch of girls were out there playing an OIA softball season opener. The top two teams in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll, no less. Rivals.
There was something missing on the Kapolei bench, however. No Tony Saffery. The head coach who brought a state title to the Hurricanes in 2004 and then took the teal-and-black clad team to the D-I state final a year ago was not there.
It turns out that Saffery — who showed up in the later innings, looking relaxed and sipping appropriately on an icy, lemonade-looking drink — is now helping out with the team in a more limited role. He says it’s the first step toward retirement and that Stacie Mahoe is now the interim head coach.
In what would be his last game as the Kapolei head coach last spring, Saffery’s Hurricanes fell 12-2 to Campbell.
That very same Sabers team — minus some seniors who graduated — were out there on Friday battling against Kapolei. And the result was much the same — a 10-0 win.
It was somewhat of a shock in both dugouts that Campbell won relatively easily — and it does not bode well for the rest of the softball teams in the state if there is that much of a difference between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the land.
Early in the game, balls hit by Campbell batters had a way of finding a way to where the Kapolei fielder’s were not. But as the game went on, the hitting got a bit more intense. Anastasia Iosia hit a long, two-run triple to right in the third and Jocelyn Alo drilled an RBI single up the middle in the fourth.
Those were the most solid among Campbell’s hits until Cieana Curran belted a 225-foot solo shot to center in the fifth.
And it happened just when Hurricanes pitcher Sadie Kapaku-You appeared to be getting into a groove. Instead, though, she grooved the first pitch of the fifth to Curran, who didn’t hesitate to send it out of the park.
“I wanted to get a strike and I came (in with the pitch) hard and Cieana’s a good hitter, so she just saw it and hit it out,” Kapaku-You said.
Said Curran, “I tried to relax. It was a good pitch, so i just went after it and, yeah, I hit a home run.”
Curran added that the blast was probably the longest she’s hit in Hawaii and that she may have hit balls farther at tournaments on the mainland.
Kapolei, who beat the Sabers in the OIA semifinals en route to the league title a year ago before the loss to Campbell in the state final, is not in panic mode.
“Campbell is definitely a good team and we wanted to have a better outcome than what we saw,” Mahoe said. “But we did see a lot of good things today. There was that one long ball. The rest were kind of offbeat hits that would have been more manageable if they had been hit straight at us. We will be practicing the “in-betweenie” hits that are sometimes tough to defend, and if we do a better job on defense we will give us ourselves a better chance on offense.
“I think if we keep moving forward and take care of the ball, obviously, and just give ourselves a little bit more of a chance on offense, it’s going to be a very different ballgame the next time around.”
Campbell coach Michael Hermosura said he felt the Sabers caught Kapolei on a bad day and believes they will bounce back.
Kapaku-You, obviously displeased with the loss, talked after the game about the team’s capacity for growth as the season goes along.
“I think we can compete with anyone,” she said.
And, in the back of her competitive mind, you could kind of tell she was clicking off the days and ways her and her teammates get to prepare for future opponents, especially the March 30 rematch at Campbell.