UHH Softball Takes Conference Lead With Twinbill Sweep
The University of Hawai`i at Hilo softball team completed a four game sweep of Azusa Pacific Saturday, catapulting them to the top of the Pacific West Conference standings with some help from abroad.
Vanessa Salinas’ four-hit shutout, aided by her first home run of the season, gave the Vulcans a 6-0 win in game 1 of the doubleheader over the Cougars at the UHH Softball Field.
In the circle, the junior transfer’s effort came exactly 24 hours after firing a two-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory. On Saturday, Salinas allowed four hits, walked a hitter, and struck out two to improve to 13-5 on the season.
Her offense gave her an early cushion to work off of. In the first inning, lead-off hitter Kristina Victa doubled to left-center field on the second pitch of the game from Rita Kim, Azusa Pacific’s ace hurler. Rebecca Lee took Kim’s next pitch deep to center field for another double, scoring Victa to give UHH a 1-0 advantage.
Following a walk to Colleen Aubrey, UHH tried a delayed-double steam with Lee standing at third base. Azusa Pacific catcher Madison Hernandez’s throw was short of second base, trying to catch Lee for an out at home, but second baseman Katrina Oviedo dropped the ball, and both runners advanced, with Lee crossing home plate for the Vulcans’ second run.
Later in the inning, Brandi Wilson scored on a passed ball, giving the Vulcans a 3-0 cushion. Wilson finished game one with a 2-for-2 effort at the plate with a run scored and an RBI.
UHH continued the offensive onslaught in the second. UHH loaded the bases with one out against Kim, setting up Emily Greene for a sacrifice fly, scoring Brittany Huff. Wilson then followed with an RBI single to plate Victa.
Wilson’s base hit also chased Kim from the pitcher’s circle. Kim took the loss, dropping to 5-3 on the year. In her inning and two-thirds of work, she allowed five runs, three earned, on four hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
Mariah Worley entered the game and immediately silenced UH Hilo’s bats. She retired the first eight batters she faced before giving up a single to Wilson in the fifth inning. She did give up the game’s only big blast, however, in the sixth inning, when Salinas helped her own cause with a home run to center field, giving UHH a 6-0 lead.
Wilson was not the only one to pair hits for UH Hilo. Huff picked up a single and a double in three at-bats.
Azusa Pacific 000 000 0 – 0 4 1
Hawai`i Hilo 320 001 x – 6 7 0
Game two: Hawai`i Hilo 6, Azusa Pacific 5
Before the second game started, the Vulcans’ found themselves at the top of the PacWest standings thanks to help from the Golden State.
California Baptist had knocked off conference leader Dixie State in game two of their doubleheader, allowing UHH to take the conference lead based on their win percentage.UHH entered their doubleheader tied for second place with Grand Canyon, who was idle.
Once again, the Vulcans muscled out to an early lead against APU. Greene launched a three-run home run over the center-field fence against Worley in the first inning, bringing home Lee and Aubrey to get the scoring starter.
Aubrey reached base in the first inning on a single, which started a 3-for-4 day for the sophomore left fielder. In the second inning, her RBI single scored Huff to extend the lead to 4-0.
Unlike game one, Azusa Pacific creeped back into the game with their offense. The Cougars got to UHH starter Ashley Nelson in the fourth inning by loading the bases with no one out. After a strikeout to Jac Harkey, Jessica Melcher grounded out to Huff at second base, who took the sure out at first base, allowing Hernandez to score the Cougars’ first run. Sona Babayan followed with a two-run single to score Heather Kock and Brandi Andrews. While that hit got APU within a run of the Vulcans, Babayan also committed a mistake by trying to extend the play to second base, where she was tagged out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the inning, Aubrey struck again with a two-run double, scoring Victa and Lee to extend her team’s lead back up to 6-3. That at-bat also ended the day for Worley, who pitched three-and-a-third innings and allowed six runs on nine hits. She fell to 2-1 on the season with the loss.
APU made a run against Nelson in the seventh and final inning. Kim, Angie Sprague, and Oviedo each singled to start the inning. The next batter, Hernandez, hit a sacrifice fly to score Kim, thinning UHH’s lead to 6-4. Koch followed and dropped a bunt in front of the circle, allowing Sprague to score from third on the out, making the score 6-5. Andrews flew out to Wilson in right field to end the game, securing UHH’s sixth straight victory.
Nelson improved to 7-7 with her complete game victory, allowing five runs on ten hits with a pair of strikeouts. She picked up a win in relief in Friday’s second game.
The top of UHH’s batting order set the tone for the squad’s offensive success. Victa batted 2-for-4 with a run scored, while Lee went 3-for-3 with a pair of runs scored. Along with Aubrey and Greene, the order’s top four hitters batted 9-for-14 with all six runs batted in.
UHH returns to the road on Saturday to open a 12 game road trip. The final six games are part of the Tournament of Champions in Terlock, CA.
Azusa Pacific 000 300 2 – 5 10 0
Hawai`i Hilo 310 200 x – 6 11 1