Rainbow Wahine stay unbeaten in WAC, 3-1
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech softball
By Stephen Tsai
Stephanie Ricketts and Jenna Rodriguez shared a lineup spot — and the spotlight — in Hawai'i's 3-1 softball victory over Louisiana Tech last night at Rainbow Wahine Stadium.
Ricketts spaced six hits and struck out 11, tying a career high, to boost the Rainbow Wahine to 12-0 in the Western Athletic Conference.
The three-game series concludes with today's doubleheader, starting at 4 p.m.
Ricketts received all the support she needed from Rodriguez, the designated player, who blasted a two-run homer into the Mānoa night in the first inning.
The Rainbows were fourth in the nation in scoring, averaging 7.34 runs per game, and first with 106 home runs.
But they knew their opportunities would be limited against Louisiana Tech ace Meghan Krieg, who is 6-1 with a 1.40 earned-run average in seven WAC games this year. League opponents have managed two home runs and a .213 average in 45 innings against Krieg.
The right-handed Krieg's best pitch is a riser that breaks inside against right-handed hitters. She also has a hard curve.
Rodriguez, who essentially takes mental reps, was able to pick up Krieg's tendencies early. "She was bringing the riseball," Rodriguez recalled.
With two outs and national home-run leader Kelly Majam on first — she drew three walks and didn't see a strike in her first 14 pitches — Rodriguez pulled an inside riser over the fence in left-center in the first inning.
"I was trying to get my timing down with her," said Rodriguez, who fouled off two pitches before belting her 11th homer of the season. "I knew she threw hard."
The Rainbows added a run in the third when Alex Aguirre was struck on the left arm with the bases loaded. The Rainbows were hit three times in the game, increasing their season total to 50 in 45 games.
The three-run lead was enough cushion for Ricketts, who relied heavily on her screwball.
It was a pitch that Ricketts threw without success last season. Perhaps, it was because she tried to aim the screwball . But this season, head coach Bob Coolen instructed Ricketts to unleash the screwball. Now, according to catcher Katie Grimes, that is Ricketts' fastest pitch.
"It's nice to have that screwball now," Ricketts said. Right-handed hitters "can't just camp on the outside. When I can throw it hard, and for a strike, why not go with it?"
Grimes said: "I knew (during warmups) she was throwing it hard. ... And she was fresh. At the end of that (recent) road trip, we were getting tired. But now we're fresh."