The pain was not physical, though a championship game loss kept rivers of tears flowing down the face of Roosevelt ace pitcher Jaeda Cabunoc.
It was the broken dream of what could’ve been. As in what could’ve been an OIA Division I softball championship. Instead, the supernova of island softball, top-ranked Campbell, was simply better in a 6-3 win on Saturday night at Tiger Softball Stadium.
Not eons or light years ahead. But the seasoned, three-time defending state champion Sabers played better defense — just one error that led to an unearned run while two Roosevelt muffs handed two unearned runs to Campbell.
“It was just the nerves. Some people pressed a little,” Cabunoc said. “Tomorrow, we rest. Monday, we go back to work on what needs to be fixed.”
The hit counts were alike, eight for each team. Campbell was more resourceful, getting a huge two-run single from pinch hitter Liana Nagamine. The Sabers left seven runners on base, though three were stranded in the bottom of the sixth while they had a three-run lead.
Roosevelt (13-2) stranded eight runners, including three in the top of the sixth after chipping into the lead. The potential tying run was on first base.
The numbers, all similar across the board. Campbell chipped and chiseled and used coach Michael Hermosura‘s guile to craft scoring opportunities. Three stolen bases in the first inning seemed to surprise the Rough Riders. That led to two runs, with the help of one of Roosevelt’s errors.
Championship experience can make that kind of a difference. It’s the kind of pain, for a losing team, that is almost necessary. It forges the next fire that will stoke the next stage of evolution. It happens all the time in the ILH in nearly every sport. It happens now in the OIA West softball galaxy.
The iron-sharpening-iron process could be happening now to Roosevelt, a program that rose out of the East, toppled some of the top teams from the West, and pushed Campbell back in the final.
There’s no consolation, of course, for the Rough Riders. They wanted it all. More so with Coach Clay Okamura out of the hospital and watching his team play for a title. He got around with the help of a cane, embraced with well wishes and good-natured barbs alike from old friends.
“She’s doing a great job,” Okamura said of interim coach Kris Fujii-Dias. “The kids are doing a great job. They’re great kids. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I can’t ask for more.”
The veteran coach’s words resonated with Cabunoc. Winning an OIA championship for her coach would’ve been quite a gift.
“Coach Clay told us that it’s just a game, and work harder. Not to hang our heads,” she said. “He told me that he’s never given up on me, so I should never give up on him.”