Chloe Sales knows how much a pitcher means to a title-contending team.
The former starting pitcher now plays first base. The Campbell senior got a good look at new teammate Taryn Irimata and other freshmen in preseason. Irimata has been on fire since day one, and she kept that momentum going with a 13-3 TKO win over Waianae in the OIA regular-season opener for both teams on Tuesday afternoon.
The Sabers are now 10-4 overall with wins over an impressive menu of opponents, including two preseason wins over West rival Mililani. Their returning starters, Sales and Cairah Curran, take a low-key approach, but their confidence in the basics — defense, good at-bats and pitching — is supreme. It isn’t simple, of course, after seven starters graduated.
“It was hard, but we’re taking it one goal at a time,” Curran said.
“Big shoes to fill,” Sales said
The goal at a powerhouse like Campbell is the same, they added. Win the OIA West. Win the league title. Take the state championship. It’s within reach. They believe Irimata is already the best pitcher in the state.
“I think so,” Curran said.
“Yes,” Sales added. “She’s a good pitcher. She keeps practicing.”
Irimata was 9-0 in preseason with an ERA of 1.41 and 61 strikeouts with 11 walks in 49 2/3 innings. The right-hander already has wins over Roosevelt, Baldwin, Moanalua, Maryknoll, Kapolei and, now, two wins over Waianae.
Sales gives Irimata a score of 8 (out of 10) on her change-up. They see her screwball at practice, but as left-handed hitters, it doesn’t have the same effect as it did on teams like Waianae. Irimata struck out six and walked just one in Tuesday’s game. Waianae scored one run in the top of the first.
“I told myself these girls aren’t scoring anymore. The next inning, I shut them down, but then they scored again (in the fifth inning). I keep telling myself that I’m better,” Irimata said.
Taryn Irimata is already on a trajectory like very few freshman pitchers. She was 9-0 with an ERA of 1.40 in preseason. On Tuesday, 6 K’s, 1 BB, 3 runs on 4 hits in Campbell’s 13-3 TKO win over Waianae to open OIA West play. @HawaiiPrepWorld @Campbell_Hawaii pic.twitter.com/gmbRDIlkXb
— Paul Honda (@PupulePaul) March 4, 2020
Longtime coach Shag Hermosura has high hopes and a very reserved approach with a roster dominated by freshmen. After Waianae got to Irimata for a run in the top of the first inning, he had a good chat with the pitcher.
“I talked to her on the side,” Hermosura said. “I said, the butterflies are out. What you don’t have right now is your timing and your release. It seems like you’re just nervous. Get over the nervousness, and just have fun and play. She responded and we got the ‘W’.”
It was the second matchup with Waianae. The teams played in Mililani’s preseason Classic, and Waianae’s hitters were aggressive early.
“I think they knew what my pitches were, so they kind of had a better approach at the top of the lineup,” Irimata said.
“She did miss a couple spots and she knew that. Inside spots, came up the middle, especially on the first batter (Braiesey Rosa). She had a couple of hits, but credit the Waianae batter,” Hermosura said.
With 10 wins, Irimata is using a tough screwball and pinpoint accuracy with the fastball. She noted that she has a natural riser at times.
“It comes because the longer your stride, your ball goes up,” said Hermosura, a longtime pitching guru. “If she can find a medium in her stride, she’ll find a rhythm and she’ll throw the pitches that we want.”
As Irimata continues to find that winning stride at the varsity level, Hermosura keeps the bar of excellence high.
“Coach always says, ‘Do the right thing,’ ” Sales said.
Plate discipline was outstanding. Not perfect, but close.
“We try to teach the girls leave the high pitch alone, but don’t miss the bottom. You start chasing the disease, which is the riser, you know you’re going to fall,” Hermosura said. “That goal (is to) be disciplined and don’t miss the bottom.”
Ten hits, seven walks and five HBPs by Campbell hitters. A pitcher who might truly be the best in Hawaii. Irimata is the real deal.
“We tell her just keep the spirits up. You’re doing good,” Curran said. “Even if she has an off game, just make the day better.”
Waianae was 3-3 in preseason, all in the recent Mililani Trojans Classic. Talented hitters are back this year, as is ace Alohi Napalapalai, but six potential starters transferred to newcomer Kapolei Charter, according to Hermosura. Waianae coach Robert Kalaola has ultimate faith in this team and is looking at the long-term picture.
“If we’re rooted, we don’t let this game get to us. The whole (OIA West) division will be like this,” he said. “We’ll play defense and get our bats going. Their pitcher (Irimata) is tough. I’m not surprised with Campbell. They always come out disciplined.”
Playing small ball, driving pitches to the alleys — five of their 10 hits were for extra bases — and flawless defense are the hallmarks for the title contending Sabers.
“We’re a young team. We’re freshmen-oriented. We try to teach our philosophy that no matter how young or old you are, we’ll keep the program as is,” Hermosura said. “If it’s not broken, we’re not going to fix it. This freshman team is very talented and I hope that they keep on working hard, that they can achieve their goals one game at a time. If they get complacent, they know what’s going to happen.”
Campbell center fielder Jaelyn Myers, the No. 8 hitter, went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and two doubles, and also drew a walk. Catcher Chloe Makinney and senior shortstop Cairah Curran each went 2-for-3, combing for five runs out of the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively.
The approach was classic Campbell as the Sabers drew six walks and absorbed seen hit-by-pitches from Waianae starter Napalapalai, who went four innings, and Braiesey Rosa.
The visitors scored in the top of the first inning when Rosa, the starter at third base, singled, advanced to second when Napalapalai walked, and scored on a single by Kewena Hussey.
With two outs in the bottom of the first, Curran singled, advanced to second on an error, Chloe Sales walked and Tati Liu was hit by pitch to load the bases. Curran came home when Lorraine Alo was hit by pitch on the right elbow, just like Liu.
Napalapalai struck out Chloe Poniatowski to end the inning, but Campbell erupted for four runs in the second frame. Myers led off with a double and scored when Kaiana Kong’s sacrifice bunt led to an error on the throw to first base.
With two outs, Makinney singled to center, and Curran followed with a bunt single, scoring Kong for a 3-1 Campbell lead. Courtesy runner Pualani Correa then came home when Curran stole second base and the catcher’s throw bounced to the shortstop. Curran stole third base before scoring on a wild pitch for a 5-1 Sabers lead.
Poniatowski led off the third with a triple to right field and scored on a double to left by Myers.
In the fourth, Makinney led off with a triple to center and scored on a groundout by Sales. After Liu was hit by pitch for a second time, Alo tripled to center, scoring Liu for an 8-1 Campbell lead.
Waianae’s Cherish Hose led off the top of the fifth and was hit by a Irimata pitch, and Venalysha Palenapa drilled a triple to left. Palenapa came home on a two-out double by Rosa, who went 2-for-4 at the plate. That cut the Campbell lead to 8-3.
The Sabers then plated five runs in the bottom of the fifth to end the contest. Rosa moved to the mound and walked five batters and hit two more. A single by Myers with the bases loaded scored Liu from third base for the 13th run and 10-run margin, but the game actually continued until Kong singled to center to bring Alo in.
Officially, the game ended after Liu scored for the final 13-3 tally.
Waianae (3-4, 0-1) 100 02 — 3 4 3
Campbell (10-4, 1-0) 141 25 — 13 10 0
Alohi Napalapalai, Braiesey Rosa (5) and Kewena Hussey. Taryn Irimata and Chloe Makinney. W—Irimata. L—Napalapalai.
Leading hitters—Waianae: B. Rosa 2-4, double, RBI, run; Venalysha Palenapa 1-2, triple, RBI, run. Campbell—Makinney 2-3, triple, 3 runs, HBP; Cairah Curran 2-3, two doubles, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Jaelyn Myers 3-3, two doubles, 2 RBIs, walk.