WAILUKU, Maui – An out away from returning to defend its state crown, Campbell watched second-seeded Baldwin score twice with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning in a 3-2 victory that will send the Bears to Saturday's title game against Pearl City.
Kawena Alo-Kaonohi's ground single to third scored Bobby Drayer from third with the tying run and Haloa Dudoit with the winning run before a wild hometown crowd at Iron Maehara Stadium, which is a pop fly away from Baldwin's campus.
The Bears (17-0), second in the Hawaiian Electric Power Rankings, will play in their ninth title game and first since 2012 when they lost to Waiakea. Baldwin is 4-4 in titles game, but won their last in 1995. All of their titles were won on Oahu, so this year's appearance is extra special. Game time is 6 p.m.
"Here, the stake is so big for our team and how they'll react to it," Baldwin coach Jon Viela said. "It's going to be big in their life to experience something like this. I don't know about pressure (to play in front of the home crowd), but I think it's in our favor, playing at home, the crowd cheering for you. The home crowd, I mean, everybody's cheering for us."
It was a gut-wrenching loss for the Sabers, who lost all their starters to graduation last year's state title team.
"They have nothing to be ashamed about, learn from this," Campbell coach Rory Pico said. "Not just learn from this game, but this whole experience, use it someway to make you a better player, a better person."
In an instant, Baldwin starting pitcher Damien –Luke Awai went from potential losing pitcher to winner. With the game tied at 1 in the top of the seventh, Awai walked Justin Fernandez. After striking out Bronson Burr, Fernandez went to second on Todd Takahama's single to center. Awai's wild pitch moved the runners to third and second. With the infield drawn in, two pitches later, another wild pitch scored Fernandez and moved Takahama to third to give Campbell a 2-1 lead. With the infield still playing in, pinch hitter Nicholas Sampson grounded out to second, as Takahama held third before Awai struck out Kainoa Ganancial.
"I put a little too much power on top (of those pitches)," Awai explained of the wild pitches.
With the crowd behind them, the Bears struck back. Drayer led off with a single to center of relief pitcher Left-hander Ayzek Silva, who entered the game in the sixth with a runner on first, before retiring the next three hitters he faced. On the first pitch to Jacob Chong, catcher Bronson Burr tried to pickoff Drayer, but his throw sailed by past first baseman Roy Clemons, sending Draying to second. Silva struck out Chong, but walked Dudoit on four pitches before Chayce Akaka fouled out to catcher Burr, who made a sliding catch in a near collision with third baseman Fernandez for the second out. Silva then hit Nawai Ah Yen with a pitch on a 3-1 count to load the bases. Right-hander Chad Samante entered to face Alo-Kaonohi, who hit a show grounder to third baseman Fernandez, who rushed his throw to first that one-hopped to first baseman Clemons, who could not control the ball as the tying and winning runs scored to end the game and send the Bears rushing onto the field.
Awai allowed two runs, one earned, three hits and a walk with six strikeouts in the complete-game win.
"We've seen Damien throw better games," Viela said. "Nevertheless, he fought, he battled his way through. I had a hunch that he'd do well because of the history that he had during the season."
Added Awai: "I felt pretty comfortable throughout the game. I didn't worry too much. My team had my back."
Sophomore Jaimin Kalaola held his own in five innings, allowing an unearned run, three hits and three walks with one strike out. Silva, a freshman, allowed a hit in one inning, but the runs he allowed were unearned.
"They threw well," Viela said of Campbell's pitchers. "They kept us off-balanced. We had our opportunities and they shut us down."
"We've been going with them all year, so had confidence that they could get the job done for us," Pico said of his young pitchers. "They've been doing it the last half of the year and they've been doing a pretty good job.
"This tournament, we wanted to give ourselves a chance to win and we did that today."
The teams each exchanged unearned runs because of errors. The Bears took a 1-0 lead in the third. Chayce Akaka reached on a two-base error when left fielder Charlie Monell dropped a fly ball and then scored on Ah Yen's single to left.
The Sabers benefitted from a Baldwin error to tie the game in the top of the fourth. Ikaika Ganancial reached first safely when first baseman Nainoa Keahi dropped shortstop Dudoit's throw and Jordan Macias reached on a hit by a pitch. The runners the advanced on a wild pitch before Ganancial scored on Fernandez's sacrifice fly to center.
Viela praised the Sabers, who were among the three unseeded teams from the OIA Western Division to advance to the semifinals.
"Coach Rory does a hell of a job out there, seeing them every year in the state tournament, doing well in the OIA," Viela said. "It's unbelievable."
Campbell will play Mililani for third place at 3 p.m.
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