Hawai'i splits in softball regional
By Tom Buckley
Special to the Advertiser
AUSTIN, Texas Melissa Coogan's experience at the NCAA Regional was like night and day.
The sophomore hurler became the first pitcher in University of Hawai'i history to win 30 games by blanking Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the tournament nightcap, 2-0, after being battered around in the morning opener by an offensive-minded Louisiana State squad.
And the recipe for success? Sleep.
"Playing early really affected us this morning," UH coach Bob Coolen said of his team's 9-4 loss to LSU in a game that started at 4 a.m. Hawai'i time. "But we got some sleep, regained our focus, and were more in tune with our game tonight."
No one benefited more from the rest, apparently, than Coogan, who suffered through three-plus groggy innings against LSU allowing six earned runs and three home runs. She rebounded by dominating A&M-CC in a complete game three-hitter, at one point retiring 15 straight Islanders. Coogan walked none and struck out three, securing the victory and extending the Rainbow Wahine season.
Hawai'i (38-19) next plays the loser of today's game between the loser Southwest Texas State (44-16-1) and Northwestern (35-18). The scheduled start time is 1 p.m. Hawai'i time.
Though overmatched most of the night, A&M-CC gave Coogan and her teammates reason for concern in the first inning, when the Islanders loaded the bases on two singles wrapped around an error. But Coogan put her devastating change up to use and fanned Eden Goss and Dani Damel. The Islanders didn't advance a runner as far as second the rest of the game.
"I was scared in the first inning," Coogan said, "but I worked through it, and I was much more confident after that."
That's the pitcher's M.O., according to her coach. "Melissa gets pumped up in the first inning," Coolen said, "so we expect that there will be some walks or hits. But then she settles into her routine. I had the opportunity to scout A&M-CC, so we had a good idea what she needed to do."
Stacey Porter scored both Rainbow runs. In the second inning, she reached on a walk, stole second, and eventually scored on a bunt single by Noelle Izumi. Then, in the sixth, Porter singled, again stole second her first multiple-steal game of the season and was driven home by Trisha Ramos, whose soft liner up the middle barely eluded Islander second baseman Rachel Mendez.
"I guess you could say I prepared for the game by sleeping," Porter laughed. "But we desperately needed the rest. We had a 6:30 wake-up this morning, and we're still not used to this time zone. I think it showed in our early game, but tonight we were much better."
In the opener, fourth-seeded LSU set an NCAA tournament record by belting five home runs, two each by Alicia Owen and Blair Smith, while Kristin Schmidt tossed a complete game victory for the Tigers.
Still, even down 6-0, the Rainbows, who out-hit the Tigers 9-7, battled their opponents, scoring four runs in the fifth on a two-run single by Denise Dahlberg and a two-run double by Porter who was 3-for-3 to close to 6-4.
But LSU reversed the momentum in the bottom of the inning when Owen connected on a two-out solo shot off reliever Shannon Tabion.
"It's hard to adjust when you're five time zones away from home," Coolen said. "We usually try and leave four days in advance before we play, and I don't think we're adjusted yet. We actually had our pre-game breakfast this morning when it was 1 a.m. on our body time clocks. But tonight, we were awake."
HAWAI'I (37-19) 000 040 04 9 1
LSU (50-16) 001 512 X9 7 1
Melissa Coogan, Shannon Tabion (4) and Denise Dahlberg; Kristen Schmidt and Leigh Ann Danos. WSchmidt. LCoogan.
Leading hitters: Hawai'i Stacey Porter 3-3, double, 2 RBIs; Noelle Izumi 2-3. LSUAlicia Owen 2-3, homer, 2 runs, 3 RBIs; Blair Smith 2-3, homer, 2 runs, 4 RBIs; Megann Steege homer, 2 RBIs.
HAWAI'I (38-19) 010 001 02 4 1
TAMU-CORPUS CHRIS. (31-24) 000 000 00 3 1
Melissa Coogan and Denise Dahlberg; Sarah Pauly and Eden Goss. WCoogan. LPauly.
Leading hitters: UHApril Crowell double.