Campbell Crown Club: Sabers Speed Past Mules to Win 2023 OIA Division I Baseball Title 


HONOLULU — It has been a banner year for Campbell Sabers athletics.

No, like literally a year that could fill a banner with accomplishments.

The Campbell Sabers’ (13-2) baseball team won its first OIA DI baseball championship since 2015 on Friday night, taking down the Leilehua Mules (9-6) at Les Murakami Stadium, 10-3.

The championship was Campbell’s fourth of the 2022-2023 school year, as baseball joined the softball team that won the OIA Division I crown last week against Waianae, 7-0, and both basketball teams from the winter season. The girls’ basketball team took down Moanalua in a defensive slugfest, 28-22, and the boys avenged their only regular season loss against Mililani, 50-45.

Despite the success of the school’s athletic programs this year, Campbell fans and players alike partied like it was 2015 again following the win.

Patience was key for the Sabers, both at the plate as they faced Mules’ starter Pono Arindain and for their fans early after seeing Campbell fall behind, 2-0, right away in the top of the first.

It wouldn’t take long for fans’ patience to be rewarded, as the Sabers worked five walks in their first ABs of the day, chasing Arindain from the game just one out in. Those five free passes, coupled with an RBI single to right from Shaun-Lee Saito to bring around the third and fourth run of the inning for Campbell, and the Sabers had quickly snatched the lead from Leilehua, 4-2. 

“[Arindain] is really a good pitcher, he’s got some really good stuff,” Campbell skipper Wayne Nagamine said postgame. “But there’s tendencies when we watched him play or he threw against us to be wild and we were making sure we didn’t swing at anything high or swung at pitches we could handle in the beginning part, and we got fortunate enough it paid off.”

Campbell starter Morgan Lavin settled in after his team had erased the deficit and given him a two-run lead, putting up zeroes in the second and third innings before righty Ismael Diaz entered in relief with one away in the top of the fourth inning. 

The Sabers would add on to their lead in the bottom half of the fourth, using two consecutive errors to help add three more runs while facing three different pitchers in the inning. Tanner Tammarine eventually escaped the jam, as the Leilehua staff was up to nine walks in just four innings. 

The Mules’ offense continued to struggle against Diaz, stranding runners in two of the three innings he finished and five innings total in the game. Matters worsened for Leilehua in the bottom of the sixth, when Campbell worked their 10th walk of the night while in the process of adding three more insurance runs ahead of the Mules’ final at-bats.

Leading 10-2, the Sabers turned to Kalaeloa Kalua to close out their first OIA baseball title since 2015 and sixth total. Leilehua would not go quietly though, quickly loading the bases with none out. Kalua and Campbell’s defense would regain control again with two quick outs, but then gave the Mules their third run of the night on a Kalua wild pitch. 

The Leilehua rally would be short-lived, though. Kalua snagged a rocket line-drive back at him for the final out of the game to clinch the 2023 OIA Division I baseball title for the Campbell Sabers. 

“It started way back in September,” Nagamine said of the Sabers’ process to get to this point. “We knew what the goal was, to win the states. We got in, this is a step [forward] to get in and we’ll see what happens. These kids really want it. As you can see, they fall apart at times, but they always come back. They’re so resilient.”

Pono Arindain was charged with the loss for Leilehua, going 0.1 innings, walking five and giving up four runs. While the righty didn’t have his best control on Friday, Arindain and the rest of the Mules will look to re-group ahead of next week’s state playoffs.  

Ismael Diaz earned the victory for Campbell, throwing 2.2 innings in relief of Morgan Lavin. Diaz gave up one run but no hits, walking two batters while holding Leilehua off the board until the seventh inning.  

Campbell’s Hunter Lindsey had himself a nice performance at the plate, helping account for five of the 10 Sabers’ runs while going 1-for-2 with three runs batted in and two runs scored.

“We’ve been playing ball right now, that’s all we can say,” said a smiling Nagamine after the game. “We’ll see what happens next week. Stay tuned, come back.”