Of Campbell's three consecutive Division I state softball championships, 2017's might have been the least expected.
But powered by their battery – pitcher Danielle Cervantes and catcher Jocelyn Alo – the Sabers pulled off the trifecta.
For each girl's effort this season, Cervantes is ScoringLive's All-Hawaii Division I softball Pitcher of the Year and Alo is the Player of the Year. Cervantes was last year's Player of the Year when there was only one award.
Unlike their title teams of 2015 and 2016, when their lineups were loaded with seasoned players with a top-down batting order second to none, this year's Sabers had six new players in the lineup filling five field positions, including the entire infield. The sixth lineup spot was the designated player. With the new bats struggling throughout the season, there was no protection for Alo in the batting order and she was consequently walked – intentionally or semi-unintentionally – 46 times during the regular season. Counting preseason, Alo drew 58 walks, which unofficially ranks third in the National Federation record book.
With runs hard to come by – all four of Campbell's losses were by one run (2-1, 1-0, 1-0 all to Pearl City and 5-4 to Mililani) – that meant Cervantes had to be beyond her best each start.
"Just work on your craft; don't worry about the other things," Campbell coach Michael Hermosura told his pitcher. "'They will come together. If you're bothered by that, you cannot work your craft.' She understood. We didn't hit as well as we did the last couple years, but it came from different people at certain times. They (eventually) clutched up."
Cervantes responded with a 13-4 record and an earned run average of 1.05. In 106 2/3 innings pitched, she allowed 57 hits and struck out 140 and walked 26, a 5.4-1 ratio, the best among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched. She had 13 complete games and tossed four shutouts, three of them no-hitters (one was combined with Jade Behic).
But she saved one of her best outings for last. Cervantes fired a one-hitter to silence Mililani, 2-0, in the state title game. About three weeks earlier, the Trojans touched up Cervantes for a season-high five runs in the 5-4 loss.
Like most successful players, Cervantes' achievements came from a dedicated work ethic.
"She did everything to get bigger, stronger and better," Hermosura said. "She worked hard in the weight room, every other day she was (running) three miles, did a lot of abs (abdominal work), 400, 500, 600 abs, sometimes a thousand in spurts. She did her wind sprints to help with her explosion."
Alo was very familiar to Campbell even before she enrolled at the Ewa Beach campus her junior year. As a freshman playing for Kahuku, the right-handed hitting Alo smashed a solo homer in a 17-1 loss to the Sabers in the first round of the OIA playoffs in 2014. Alo, who was OIA East Co-Player of the Year as a freshman and a second team All-Hawaii selection at catcher.
Her sophomore season was virtually overlooked at Kahuku played in Division II. She still was an OIA D2 second-team selection at third base.
When she arrived at Campbell, coaches and players knew of Alo's past and the potential she could bring to an already solid program. Her acceptance came not with her accolades, but how she worked.
"We all knew what she did (at Kahuku)," Hermosura said. "We didn't know how she would come out to our program. But she made an impact by just working hard at practice, showing the team that she can do something for the program. Just her work habits, her mannerisms, work habits on the field (and) off the field in the weight room. The kids began to follow, follow, follow."
Alo didn't disappoint on the field. The 2016 All-Hawaii first-team catcher hit .577 with 11 doubles, a triple and six home runs with 20 RBI. She walked 20 times.
This past season was a different story. With virtually no protection in the lineup, Alo was walked 46 times. There was a reason no one wanted anything to do with her. When pitched to, she hit .414 with four doubles, five homers and 11 RBI.
Alo's hitting became legendary at practice.
"She'd hit the ball into the boys' batting cage (left-center field)," Hermosura said. "She'd hit the ball to the baseball field at second base in practice. Sometimes, the boys stop watch her hit. Even Rory (Pico, the baseball coach) would tell the boys, ‘You see how far she hit the ball?' Even he was surprised. "
More surprises? At times, she would bat left-handed at practice.
"She was taking them deep, too," Hermosura said. "She's just an awesome athlete."
Alo's value was not just as an offensive threat.
"She would take care of Dani (Cervantes)," Hermosura said. "She would know when to call timeout to talk to her. I didn't have to tell her. She controlled the game. Like baseball, the pitcher controls the tempo of the game. Opposing teams always wanted to slow her down, but we wanted her to keep on throwing the ball, keep on throwing the ball."
Both Cervantes and Alo will continue their softball careers in college. Cervantes will pitch at the Hawaii-Hilo and Alo will play for defending national champion Oklahoma.
For leading a relatively inexperienced team to a state championship, Hermosura is our Coach of the Year. This was the third consecutive season he led an unseeded team to the state championship. The Sabers' 12 consecutive state tournament wins is a tournament record.
Hermosura had to tinker with his lineup throughout the season with Alo being walked continually. His teams were always within striking range; their widest deficit all season was two runs.
ALL-HAWAII DIVISION I SOFTBALL
Player of the Year: Jocelyn Alo, Campbell
Pitcher of the Year: Danielle Cervantes, Campbell
Coach of the Year: Shag Hermosura, Campbbell
SECOND TEAMP: Kahilu McNicoll, Maryknoll - Jr
Catcher: Kai Barrett (Iolani), Gaylynn Ha (Hilo), Baylie Kahele (Maryknoll), Johnacy Mackwelung (Waiakea), Kyler Stephens (Kamehameha), Hailey-Alexis Yamaguchi (Pearl City)
Infield: Shaylee Alani (Kamehameha), Kylie Carganilla (Farrington), Logan Carlos (Maryknoll), Dee Castlillo-Hopu (Kamehameha), Brandee Chinen (Waiakea), Chloe Domingo (Campbell), Trinity Favela (Campbell), Sydney Kamakaiwi (Maryknoll), Brittney Keaunui (Kealakehe), Reilyenne Nahulu (Leilehua), Maya Nakamura (Roosevelt), Kiley Ozaki (Kapolei), Bryanna Passi (Pearl City), D’Asha Saiki (Punahou), Kanoe Tanigawa (Maryknoll), Kylie Tasaki (Pearl City), Skyler Thomas (Waiakea)
Outfield: Taylor Au (Pearl City), Alana Cobb-Adams (Kamehameha), Nikki Corla (Campbell), Verly DeCasa (Kealakehe), Shaily Moses (Waiakea), Zayanna Sanchez (Kealakehe), Noel Saunders (Pearl City), Taylor Shigeta (Pearl City)
Designated player/Utility: Gianna Araki (Leilehua), Taylor Asio (Lahainaluna), Kiara Cantiberos (Kealakehe), Anastasia Iosia (Campbell), Jerae Keliikoa (Mililani), Kanalei McCoy (Nanakuli), Kenedi Lopes (Iolani)
Pitcher: Cira Bartolotti (Maui), Jaeda Cabunoc (Roosevelt), Mari Foster (Roosevelt), Rayla Jacobs-Kea (Kamehameha), Sadie Kapaku-You (Kapolei)
Coaches who also received consideration: John Uekawa (Maryknoll)
ScoringLive's All-Hawaii teams honor standout Division I and II athletes statewide. Selections are made by SL staff in consultation with media and coaches.