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Campbell’s road to a repeat softball title won’t come easy

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It’s only fitting for the Campbell Sabers.

For years, they teetered on the edge, ready to pounce on a state championship. Finally, last season, Katie Manuma powered them to a first state title.

This year, after surviving the rugged Oahu Interscholastic Association playoffs, Campbell won the league crown. The Sabers also have the No. 1 seed in the DataHouse/HHSAA Division I State Softball Championships, which begin today at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.

For Campbell and coach David Perreira, it was a bit of a bumpy road. The Sabers lost to Leilehua in their league opener, then stumbled twice against rival Kapolei late in the regular season. Since then, it’s been seven wins in a row, including a 2-1 victory over Kailua for the OIA crown.

Sharae Esprecion (.386), Daylene Antonio (.424), Collette Black (.429), Jessica Arata (.350) and Nicole Arata (.333) spark Campbell’s attack. Summer Palipti (.565, 13 RBIs, 18 runs) is the force behind perhaps the hottest team in the postseason.

Yet, Campbell is not a consensus favorite to win the state tourney. In fact, the Sabers are ranked No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Softball Top 10. Coaches and media voted Mid-Pacific, champion of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, to the No. 1 ranking. Three teams collected No. 1 votes in the poll, none of them being Campbell (12-3).

No matter what, Campbell doesn’t have the misfortune of Punahou (12-3) and Castle (12-3). The two powerhouses were sailing through league play before falling short of titles. Punahou fell 5-4 to MPI last week in the league title game. Castle, 11-1 at one point, lost three of its last four games. Now the two teams — Punahou is ranked third in the Top 10 and Castle is fourth — will square off in today’s opening round. The winner moves on to play Lahainaluna in a quarterfinal tomorrow.

ILH champ MPI (14-4), a No. 1-ranked team for much of the season, is the second seed and will play the Baldwin-Mililani winner tomorrow.

Kacy Aoki (.424), Gabrielle Hollinger (.478), Lindsey Matoi (.452) and Jordan Joy (.500) help set the table for Kaydi Kochi (.682, 13 RBIs) and Ali‘itasi Docktor (.733, 10 RBIs, two homers). Keiki Carlos brings nearly three years of top-level experience. The junior is 14-3 with a 1.59 ERA and a .531 batting average. She has 16 RBIs and 15 runs scored.

Waiakea, unbeaten champion of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, will wait for the Leilehua-Kailua winner.

As for Campbell, it won’t be so simple despite the first-round bye. Kapolei’s reward for getting past Kealakehe today would be a matchup with Campbell tomorrow.

In Division II, defending state champ Pac-Five (7-9), guided by coach Cecil Hasegawa, is the top seed. Waimea (10-3) is seeded second and Kahuku (14-0) is third. Konawaena (7-9) is the fourth seed.

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