The Year of the Saber has been, and as of this season, continues to be more than a sequel.
Click here to view the 2017 Star-Advertiser All-State softball team that ran in Sunday’s newspaper.
It is a trilogy. Three championships in a row, none coming so easily, not at all. Dani Cervantes, the 2017 Star-Advertiser Softball pitcher of the year for a second year in a row, did her part. With a young squad finding its identity, struggling at the plate, she wielded a remarkable season on the mound, crafting one gemstone after another.
With a killer curve ball and pinpoint fastball, Cervantes mastered the art of the drop during the regular season, learning the intricacies from head coach Michael “Shag” Hermosura. By the end, her teammates stepped up in every way, delivering key hits in the postseason. Campbell softball and the entire experience of maturing as a student-athlete — and leader — is now complete. It is finished.
“Graduation, it does have an effect on me. I’m sad to leave,” said Cervantes, who will hurl pitches, including her newly-crafted drop, at UH-Hilo.
Hermosura, who was voted coach of the year, was proud of the work ethic by his top seniors, Cervantes and catcher Jocelyn Alo. The latter was voted position player of the year. Alo, a former state wrestling champion, tops out at 220 pounds on the bench press.
Alo’s numbers are like none other in recent memory: .414 batting average, an on-base percentage above .800 and a 1.069 slugging percentage. Five home runs and 46 walks. It’s not preposterous to envision at least 20 more homers had opposing coaches and pitchers elected to pitch to the senior.
Cervantes came along and got stronger with each day, inspired in part, perhaps, by the strength of her battery mate, Alo.
“Our pitchers run one mile (at practice). Dani would do three. I say, ‘Run six,’ she doesn’t complain,” Hermosura said. “Every day she does ab work. The weight room has made a huge difference. I think it’s the workout regimen. The running. The weight room. All the girls buy into what we’re asking for as coaches.
Cervantes got stronger, coaches and observers say, as the season went along. That offseason work paid off. In the state finals, she overcame the powerful hitting lineup of Mililani by firing a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and just one walk. For the season, she went 13-4 with a 1.05 ERA. In 106-plus innings, she struck out 140 with just 57 hits allowed and 26 walks.
Her departure leaves a major void for Campbell, but Hermosura and his staff are preparing for the next chapter.
“We’ve got five pitchers next year. It’s going to be a lot of work, and finding a catcher who can control the game,” Hermosura said.
Alo will be at Oklahoma next season, competing for a starting role, maybe, at a program that just won the NCAA championship.
“It all depends on how much they want it,” Hermosura said.
And now, some closing All-State notes from our favorite Mad Librarian, Jerry Campany.
>> Alo is the player of the year for the second year in a row, and top catcher for the second year in a row.
>> Dallas Millwood of Kamehameha is the top first baseman for the second straight year, the first repeater at the position since Jamie Millwood of Kamehameha in 2009.
>> Cervantes is the pitcher of the year for the second straight year, the first repeater since Keiki Carlos in 2012.
>> Campbell has had at least one girl on the first team every year since 2013
>> Kamehameha has had at least one girl on the first team every year since 2011
>> Mililani has had at least one girl on the first team every year since 2013
>> Ashley Salausa is the first Leilehua girl to make the first team since Krystin Kubo in 2011.
>> Maryknoll has had at least one girl on the first team every year since 2012
>> Pearl City put a player on the first team for the second straight year, the first time that has happened since 2006. Kristin Frost was on the first team last year.
>> The OIA West had eight of the 12 first teamers, Campbell and Mililani had three each. Last year the OIA West had nine of the 11 first teamers.