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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 13, 2006

Texas-Arlington chases UH in semis, 6-2

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Coolen

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The post-game dinner was rescheduled into an afternoon barbecue after the University of Hawai'i softball team was ousted in a 6-2 semifinal loss to Texas-Arlington in the Paradise Classic at Rainbow Wahine Stadium yesterday.

The Rainbows, who entered yesterday's championship round as the No. 1 seed after going 4-1 in the round robin, could not deliver the right pitch or produce timely hits.

The fourth-seeded Mavericks, who went on to win the tournament title with a 10-0 win over Loyola-Marymount, amass-ed nine hits and two walks against three UH pitchers. UTA's Laura Jones, a sophomore right-hander, pitched a complete game, not allowing a run in the final six innings.

The outcome was a reversal of Thursday's season-opening game between the teams, when the Rainbows pounded 13 hits in a 10-4 victory. In preparing for the rematch, Jones said, "We really decided to mix pitches up a little bit. They have really good hitters, but we tried to take advantage of the times when they seemed like they were over-eager. We tried to throw a little out of the (strike zone) and get them to chase."

UH came away empty after placing runners on second and third in both the third and fourth innings.

"I think our kids started going after some bad pitches," coach Bob Coolen said. "And some of the kids didn't swing at (good) pitches."

The bottom third of the Rainbows' lineup also is struggling, going a combined 6 for 47 (.128) in six games. UH's 7-8-9 hitters were 1 for 8 against Jones.

In a somewhat surprising move, UH's Jessica Morton, a third-year sophomore, earned the start ahead of the top pitcher, Justine Smethurst. Coolen reasoned that Smethurst struggled in Thursday's game against UTA, and that Morton had renewed confidence after Friday's complete-game victory over Southern Mississippi. Smethurst would have pitched in the title game, if UH had advanced that far. There were no plans to use No. 2 starter, Courtney Baughman.

But on Morton's first pitch, a blister burst on the index finger of her right (throwing) hand. "It was fresh," she said of the wound. On rise balls, the (index) finger is the last one to touch. The seam (of the softball) just ripped (the blister) off."

After that, Coolen said, "she couldn't throw her riseballs or her rise curves. She was flat."

UTA took advantage. Shortstop Amanda Swofford doubled, then scored on first baseman Dee Jay Nelson's single to left. Later, Nelson scored when shortstop Valana Manuma's throw sailed past first baseman Tyleen Tausaga.

Swofford's two-out RBI single in the second put the Mavericks ahead, 3-2, and ended Morton's outing.

"It was disappointing," Morton said of her latest injury. Two years ago, she suffered a spine injury. Last year, she broke her right thumb in a moped accident, and the day she returned to practice, she sustained a broken jaw when she was struck with an errant throw.

Kate Robinson provided instant relief striking out four of the first eight batters she faced and then disbelief, when she surrendered three runs in the fifth.

"Kate did well early, when we were in the ballgame," Coolen said. "Once we got out of it, she got frustrated."

In preparation for this week's tournament in Las Vegas, Coolen will re-assess plans to stick with a three-pitcher rotation (Morton might be used as a reliever and spot starter), continue to search for a full-time right-fielder (Brandi Peiler is the top candidate) and improve the offense at the bottom of the lineup.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.