Kaaialii, Yamaguchi lead “upset” of Sabers

Pearl City's Tiyanna Kaaialii held Campbell in check on Tuesday. Dennis Oda / Star-Advertiser
Pealr City’s Tiyanna Kaaialii held Campbell in check on Tuesday. Dennis Oda / Star-Advertiser

In their ace pitcher’s eyes, a come-from-behind 2-1 win over two-time defending state champion Campbell was not an upset.

Pearl City senior Tyanna “Peanut Butter” Kaaialii was potent against Campbell, mowing down 10 batters with just two walks and one hit batter, finishing with a three-hitter as the Chargers improved to 4-0 in the difficult OIA West on Tuesday afternoon. It took a botched ground ball by Campbell’s normally reliable infield to spark Pearl City’s sixth-inning comeback. That led to two unearned runs off Dani Cervantes thanks to a clutch two-out single by Hailey-Alexis Yamaguchi.

Depending on how you look at it, the Chargers simply got lucky, or — more likely — they simply played better defense and pitched well.

“It’s not an upset,” Kaaialii said. “It was coming.”

There’s no doubt she was thrilled, as was the entire team, but coach Chad Obara said that, yes, this is an upset.

“I think so because of what Campbell has been able to do. They’re proven,” he said.

But can Campbell replicate what it has done the past two seasons? The Sabers did not win the OIA championship in 2015 and ’16, yet went on to win the state crown both years. Kaaialii and her mix of change-ups (drops), risers, fastballs and curves are astoundingly effective, and her trademark grunt after each pitch has a way of reminding any teammate, opponent or spectator within earshot that she has a lasting intensity.

It starts with the change-up. She calls it a drop. Campbell coach Shag Hermosura calls it an effective mix of pitches — called by Obara — that his team never quite adjusted to. How could they know? Kaaialii didn’t master these four pitches last year.

“I definitely had the rise and curve outside,” she said of her warmup in the bullpen. “The change-up was more in the middle (third) inning.”

How much has that change-up improved since last year? Five percent? Twenty percent?

“One-hundred percent,” Kaaialii said. “I didn’t have it last year.”

It was that fourth pitch that made things tough on all the Sabers, including power-hitting standout Jocelyn Alo, who struck out swinging in her first plate appearance against Kaaialii. Alo finished 1-for-2 with a walk.

“That’s the first time I’ve struck her out,” said Kaaialii, who used that change-up on the third strike.

Campbell has been through this before, enjoying moderate success in the regular season before taking a dominant role in the postseason.

“It’s a heartbreaker for us,” Hermosura said. “We’ll come back and work hard. I wonder what I can do to get us back on track. Getting the glove on the ball, hitting the ball. Today, we didn’t do it. Pearl City worked hard for a big win.”


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