The instant classic had a classic finish for the two-time defending state champion Campbell Sabers.
For Pearl City, a team that had already beaten Campbell in three dramatic one-run games during OIA play, there was nothing they could do as the Sabers chipped and chiseled for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to rally past Pearl City 5-4.
And just like that, the Chargers’ ultimate dream winning a state softball championship ended on the pristine grounds of Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. Pearl City’s Tyanna “Peanut Butter” Kaaialii persevered though the aches and pains of season-long wear and tear. So did Campbell ace Dani Cervantes.
The senior right-hander was the hard-luck loser in each of those previous games with Pearl City. After a loss one afternoon during senior day, the gritty hurler spoke clearly despite the tears falling.
“We worked so hard,” she said at the time.
The Sabers still work hard, and the results are showing. They will face top-seeded Mililani — three of the four semifinalists came from the OIA West — in the finals of tonight’s DataHouse/HHSAA Division I Softball Championships.
Campbell saw a 2-0 lead disappear in the top of the sixth inning. Fans lost their enthusiasm for a moment or two as Pearl City rallied and seemed to be the team of destiny. After the Chargers tacked on an insurance run for a 4-2 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh, they could almost taste it.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking, but everyone knew they had to step up,” Cervantes said.
That’s when the Sabers got a walk by Jocelyn Alo, an infield single by Chloe Domingo, and a seeing-eye single to right by Alesia Ranches to cut the lead 4-3. When Caisha Nunes’ sac bunt become trouble, Pearl City first baseman Bryanna Passi had no other choice than to try and get the force-out at third base. But Domingo hustled to beat the throw, and the bases were loaded with no outs.
Nikki Corla’s infield single to short brought Domingo home, and with only one ball leaving the infield, Campbell had manufactured two runs. All that was left was for Zoie Recolan to put the ball in play.
Pearl City coach Chad Obara then lifted left fielder Taylor Au in favor of a fifth infielder, Taylor Shigeta. It was a bold move, but the truly correct move. It didn’t matter. Recolan ended her 0-for-5 slump in the state tourney with a deep line drive that landed on the lush terrain of left center, scoring Ranches with the winning run.
Pearl City’s magical quest for a state title came to an end, despite the outstanding defense, the grit of Kaaialii, the timely hitting. It felt, in so many ways, like Pearl City and Campbell played not one, not two, not three, but FOUR state-championship level title games in this spring of 2017.
As the ILH saw through the fall and winter, the OIA West and the state baseball and softball tournaments have seen the rise of teams that had been knocked down. Instead of wallowing and hoping, teams like Maui’s boys and Campbell’s girls got back up, figured things out and answered with a fury and sharpness that only comes with iron.
Iron sharpening iron. For those who witnessed this semifinal game, the process was epic.
“Zoie had been slumping all tournament,” Sabers coach Michael Hermosura said. “Dani works so hard. If I were to ask her to run 10 miles, she would run 10 miles. When they lost the lead, I knew they were down, but as coaches, we pick them back up. We stay positive and help them find their inner selves, and they compete.”