Nevada topples Hawaii in 8
|Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. Nevada softball|
By Stephen Tsai
By Stephen Tsai
There were two power outages totaling more than 30 minutes of delays at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium last night.
For Hawai'i, a greater problem was the power surge.
Brittany Puzey hit a three-run homer to highlight a four-run seventh inning, and Sam Bias smacked the decisive solo drive in the eighth to boost Nevada to a 6-5 victory.
The outcome wasted first baseman Amanda Tauali'i's UH-record three home runs, and aggravated the Rainbow Wahine's collective nerve in yet another setback to the Wolf Pack.
Last year, the Rainbows were winless in four meetings, including the semifinal of the Western Athletic Tournament. In 2006, the Pack ousted the Rainbows from the WAC Tournament.
"It's a nemesis team," UH coach Bob Coolen said of Nevada.
The Rainbows were cruising through the first six innings, thanks to Tauali'i's three bases-empty home runs.
What's more, freshman right-hander Stephanie Ricketts, who did not allow an earned run in the previous four games, extended that streak to 30 2/3 innings before the Pack scored a run in the sixth.
Trailing 4-1 in the seventh, the Pack loaded the bases on a hit and two walks. The Pack closed to 4-2 on Kym Silagyi's RBI groundout.
Then Puzey rocketed a 3-2 pitch over the fence in left field to give the Pack a 5-4 lead.
"She just got a good hit," UH catcher Katie Grimes said. "It was painful."
In the bottom of the seventh, the Rainbows loaded the bases with one out. Mallary Darby, who likely will start today's doubleheader opener, replaced starter Katie Holverson.
Tauali'i grounded a run-scoring single to right to tie it at 5 and force extra innings.
With one out in the eighth, Ricketts induced Bias to miss two screwballs. Coolen had wanted Ricketts to throw a change-up, a pitch that baffled the Pack hitters most of the night. In her first at-bat, Bias struck out on a change-up.
But Grimes, who calls the pitches, signaled for another screwball.
"We struck her out on three change-ups (in the second inning)," Grimes reasoned. "I thought if she was expecting anything, it was a change-up. (Ricketts) blew two (screwballs) by her. I decided to go with that again."
But this time Bias drove the 0-2 pitch over the wall in left.
"The (screwball) pitches should not have been thrown," Coolen said. "In that situation, there should have been two change-ups called, but they weren't."
To be sure, the sequence would not have mattered if the Rainbows could have generated more offense from hitters other than Tauali'i and Tanisha Milca, who hit a solo homer. They were a combined 5 of 8 with five RBIs. The rest of the lineup was 4 of 27.
Darby, who improved to 9-4, struck out four of the six batters she faced. Nineteen of her 23 pitches were strikes.
Coolen tried to prepare the Rainbows for hard-throwing Holverson and Darby. During batting practice in the preceding three days, Coolen threw from 30 feet (13 feet closer than the regulation distance). He also cranked up the pitching machine.
"We worked hard to face someone who throws a little bit harder than most," Coolen said. "It paid off for some. Others just haven't got it yet. They don't understand they have to hit the ball out of the front. They can't get behind in the count. They have to be more aggressive hitters. A.J. (Tauali'i) bought into that."
Tauali'i, a junior, had a limited role her first two UH seasons. But this season she has emerged as the full-time first baseman and the Rainbows' most dependable hitter. She is batting .400 with a team-high 10 home runs and 22 RBIs.
"I came out of (the past week's road trip to) Louisiana trying to focus a little better," Tauali'i said. "The way we prepared really helped out a lot."
Coolen said: "She's worked hard. Kudos to A.J. for coming out of her slump."
Milca described the loss as "tough."
But she said it might prove beneficial for the Rainbows to have faced Darby.
"We kind of saw what she had," Milca said. "We'll learn from this, and we'll get ready to battle again. We'll try to come back hard."
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