Information. Application. Precision.
The Campbell Sabers are a perfect 9-0 in the rough-and-tumble OIA West, one win away from sealing a first-round playoff bye. They’ve done it without the benefit of a bone crushing lineup of deep-ball hitters. They’ve done it with all the craftsmanship of a surgeon or jeweler.
Small ball, pitching and defense, in 2019, are alive and well. Yet, even with perfect mark and a No. 1 ranking in the Star-Advertiser Softball Top 10, the intricacy of Campbell’s formula is not invincible. The Lady Sabers simply don’t beat themselves.
Ace Nadia Delzer continuously worked the outside corner, not so much expecting strikes on pitches that were two to four inches off the edge. She was more engaged keeping Waianae’s potent bats from getting a square cut. As many times as Delzer had the count at two or three balls, she had the precision and ability to change speeds on inside pitches. She did not walk a single batter, scattering eight hits.
“I had to make sure I hit all my inside spots. Waianae has some good hitters. Coach Shag (Hermosura) is hard on me and pushes me because he knows I can do a lot. He gives me a lot of faith. He trusts me in his plan and I trust what he tells me,” the senior said.
The knowledge of Hermosura and staff are crucial. Hermosura is a former fastpitch ace who still wings it pretty well.
“He has a lot of spins. He shows us his curve,” Delzer said. “He’s helped a lot with my curves and screwballs. If I hit the spin correct, then it’ll be a screw. If I hit it harder, then it goes up. I used my riser about a couple of times.”
Waianae reached base in the third, fourth and fifth innings, but came up empty each time. Delzer finished strong, retiring seven of the last eight Seariders.
“I want to shout out my whole team because they had my back the whole time, no matter if there were runners on base, if I had a walk or anything. They had my back,” Delzer said.
They also applied what they learned about Waianae’s freshman hurler, Mya Keliiwaiwai‘ole, laying off her dangerous risers. The last time the teams met, she allowed just one earned run and four hits in six innings. The Sabers reached her for 10 hits this time.
For all the skill it takes to piece together a perfect league record, there’s also this: three of Campbell’s wins have been by the slimmest of margins. The Sabers edged Waianae 3-2, Leilehua 7-6 and Mililani 6-5. There was also a 2-0 win over Kapolei. At some point, teams that win this close — without dominating competition consistently — revert to the mean.
Or will they?
The long-ball approach works for some teams. Leilehua has multiple bashers in its lineup. The same goes for Punahou. Campbell has had its share of powerball playmakers in the past. But Hermosura won’t give up outs so easily. Every at-bat, every pitch is valued to the nth degree. The front half of the lineup went 8-for-15 today against a pitcher with one of the best risers in the OIA.
Can any analytical equation measure that kind of efficiency? Campbell had another error-free defensive performance. The buy-in from top to bottom is uncommon, unless you have Saber softball in your veins. That’s why this year’s seniors embrace the legacy.
“Nadia and our pitchers, you know, four to six miles each day, keeps them in shape,” Hermosura said. “Days that we have weight room, we run a mile sprint all the time. It’s them. How much they want it. We want that for them, but they’ve got to gain it themselves.”