Sea Warrior aces trump competition
By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
Led by a pair of aces, Hawai'i Pacific is closing in on its fourth consecutive Pacific West Conference title with eight league games to play.
HPU, the third-ranked team in the nation in the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II Top 25 poll, is 35-4 overall and 20-2 in the PacWest. A big reason for the Sea Warriors' success has been pitchers Sherise Musquiz and Ashley Valine.
"Our pitching has really been leading the way for us," HPU coach Bryan Nakasone said. "Sherise and Ashley are both doing a great job this year."
Musquiz, a senior right-hander, is a two-time All-PacWest first-team selection and leads the league in ERA at 0.87. The 6-foot native of Pico Rivera, Calif., went 14-9 as a freshman in 2007. Musquiz led the team in innings pitched (146), games started by a pitcher (21) and appearances (25) that year, but if not for a phone call from Nakasone, she probably would have never played at HPU.
"Actually, when she first arrived here, she didn't come as a softball player — we didn't recruit her — she was an unknown player from the Mainland," Nakasone said. "She was already enrolled (at HPU) when we received a call from someone on the Mainland, who said, 'This young lady is at your school and I think she can help your team.'
"She was primarily a volleyball player in high school and she was an unknown player in softball because she didn't play on any summer teams. I contacted her and obviously, she has been a great surprise for us."
Two of her losses as a freshman came in a pair of 12-innings defeats to then-powerhouse Humboldt State. Musquiz allowed no earned runs in a 2-1 loss in the first meeting and dropped a 3-2 decision in the NCAA West Regional.
"Back then, Humboldt was the dominant team in the West and I think that those games showed Sherise that she could pitch against the best and be successful," Nakasone said. "We weren't able to support her with enough runs or hits in those games, but it definitely showed what kind of character she has."
Musquiz broke out as a sophomore with a 19-3 record in 23 starts. She finished with a team-low 1.52 ERA and held opponents to a .201 batting average. Last season, she recorded a PacWest-best 1.19 ERA and went 21-4.
"She has a lot more movement and control over her pitches now," Nakasone said. "She's gotten smarter about how to pitch and hitting her spots. Sherise understands that batters will hit the ball, but you just can't let them hit it hard and she does a good job keeping hitters off balance."
Musquiz is 21-1 this season and is three wins away from breaking HPU's career record for wins (held by Suzie Schoales). Musquiz's career record is 75-17.
"She's doing another beautiful job for us as she has done in the last three years," Nakasone said. "Sherise just continues to post wins. She's not an overpowering pitching, but she's smart, she works hard and she has a great defense around her. We just have to generate a few runs and she'll keep us in the ball game."
Valine, a right-hander from San Luis Obispo, Calif., is experiencing a breakout season as a junior with a 13-3 record. Her 1.30 ERA is behind only Musquiz in the PacWest.
"Ashley is having a wonderful year. She's almost the completely opposite pitcher of Sherise," Nakasone said. "We're been pretty successful having Sherise pitch the first game (of doubleheaders) and Ashley pitch the second, so hopefully that will continue."
HPU plays a pair of doubleheaders at UH-Hilo Saturday and Sunday.
The bracket has been released for this week's Hawaiian Airlines PacWest Women's Tennis Championships, to be held at the Paseo Racquet Club in Glendale, Ariz. tomorrow through Saturday.
Brigham Young-Hawai'i (24-0, 10-0) drew the top seed and will meet UH-Hilo in a quarterfinal match tomorrow. Other opening-round pairings are No. 2 seed HPU (16-2, 8-2) against No. 7 Dominican (3-11, 1-9), No. 3 Grand Canyon (11-12, 7-3) against No. 6 Academy of Art (8-12, 5-5) and No. 4 Chaminade (8-9-1) against No. 5 Dixie State (7-8, 6-4).
Hilo sweeps: Ronnie Loeffler and Aaron Correa each pitched a five-hitter as host Hawai'i-Hilo swept Dixie State by identical 4-2 scores yesterday in a PacWest doubleheader at Wong Stadium. Loeffler struck out six and walked one; Correa struck out five and walked none.