Somewhere between batting cages and yoga sessions, the Campbell Sabers won a state championship.
The school’s first softball crown, earned on Friday night with a 5-1 win over Punahou, wasn’t just about downward dogs and learning to hit an outside fastball the other way. In the mind of coach David Perreira, the Sabers needed to reach the next level in performance. That required a new level of preparation.
A year ago, Perreira had the team in an exhaustive physical program known as P90X. This year, he put the team through a preseason and regular season regimen quite uncommon, especially in public-school programs.
“We went in a different direction. We did a lot of speed training, strength training, flexibility and partner stretching,” said Perreira, who practiced what he preached. Each week, when the team broke the daily routine and did more than an hour of yoga, the head coach was right there in the midst of his Sabers, learning the techniques along with them.
Campbell responded with an 18-1 record in Oahu Interscholastic Association and state-tournament play. One of the beneficiaries of all the training was pitcher Katie Manuma, who was explosive and consistent through four complete-game victories.
The BYU-bound senior made one mistake and got hammered by Punahou’s Mysha Sataraka on a bullet over the left-field fence for a homer.
“Man, did she turn on that ball,” Perreira said of Sataraka. Manuma, who normally has four to six strikeouts per game, finished with nine. The Buffanblu were stymied by the senior ace the rest of the night.
“It’s like Coach David says, you can’t make mistakes,” said Manuma, who regrouped and dominated the rest of the way.
“Katie put the team on her shoulders,” Perreira said. “She gets key strikeouts when she really focuses. She was hungry today. I don’t think she’s pitched with this intensity and involvement in four games like that.”
Shortstop Nicole Arata was superb at the plate: 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored in the opener against Roosevelt; 2-for-3 with two walks, a double and five RBIs against Mid-Pacific; 1-for-3 with a run against Castle; 2-for-2 with a walk, two runs and an RBI in the title win over Punahou. In all, Arata was 7-for-12 (.583) and had an on-base percentage of .667.
“(Manuma) and ‘Rika (Pantohan) didn’t hit, but Nicole clutched up,” Perreira said. “She was in the zone, seeing the ball really well.”
It didn’t hurt that Arata had seen Punahou ace Jasmine Ioane (3-1 in the tourney) up close many times before. The two, along with Manuma, are teammates in the offseason with the Mililani Prep softball club. Her two key hits in the final came on pitches that are staples for Ioane: a lethal change-up and a nearly impossible inside fastball.
Ioane emerged as the hottest pitcher in the postseason until Campbell upstaged her, but just two of the five runs were earned. Ioane religiously munches on Mamba raspberry fruit chews a couple of hours before each game, but it was the expertise of pitching coach Jessica Morton, the former UH hurler, that made a big difference.
“She always says to ‘pitch smart,’ keep it low and mix my pitches,” Ioane said. “She knows the other team’s weaknesses and gives me the scouting report.”
Makahilahila was more than happy to see Ioane’s progress.
“Jess helped Jazz learn what it means to pitch. Jazz was always a thrower, but Jess taught her how to pitch, how to win games and finish,” he said.
Paul Honda, Star-Bulletin