'Bows rout Spartans, 16-8 Day one curse finally gone
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Once the power was restored, top-seeded Hawai'i surged to a 16-8 softball victory over San Jose State yesterday in Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
In the process, the Rainbow Wahine smashed six home runs to tie the NCAA record of 134 in a season.
"It felt really cool," said freshman center fielder Kelly Majam, whose 26th homer tied the mark, set by Arizona last year. "It was like a team thing. It wasn't like I hit all six (yesterday)."
This season, 13 Rainbows have hit home runs, and each of the starters has at least seven.
"It's cool that we've all been a part of this (record)," said third baseman Melissa Gonzalez, who hit two home runs and drove in a career-best six runs. "It wasn't a few of us. We all contributed."
San Jose State, which had defeated Louisiana Tech Wednesday night, scored three runs in the top of the first.
But the Rainbows were undaunted. Huddling before the bottom of the inning, Gonzalez recalled, "We told each other we could hit, too. They hit. We had to hit the ball harder."
Indeed, the Rainbows were able to conquer that deficit, and a 7-5 hole after 2 1/2 innings.
The Rainbows had entered having not played the past weekend and an opening-round bye in the tournament. The 12-day layoff since the last game, Majam said, might have contributed to the Rainbows being "rusty on defense."
But, she noted: "We weren't panicking at all. We knew we could hit."
Las Cruces is considered to be a setting favorable to power hitters. The air is thin (elevation 3,900 feet) and dry. The New Mexico State Softball Complex's dimensions — 190 feet to the corners, 210 to straightaway center — offers reachable targets.
"The ball just flies out of this park," Majam said. "We knew we could hit a ton of home runs here."
What's more, the Rainbows had played both here, hitting 13 homers in a three-game sweep of New Mexico State, and against San Jose State this season.
"We knew what to expect," Gonzalez said.
Stephanie Ricketts, who was named the WAC's Pitcher of the Year the day before, struggled, allowing eight runs — five earned — and walking seven in five innings. But backed by the Rainbows' 16 hits, she improved to 23-6.
Ricketts is 14-0 against WAC opponents this season.
After falling behind 3-0, the Rainbows quickly tied it. Majam drew a leadoff walk, then advanced to third on shortstop Jessica Iwata's double.
Gonzalez then powered her 21st home run of the season, a drive that thundered over the left-field fence.
In the second inning, Gonzalez slammed a two-run drive that cleared the trees in center field.
"My first at-bat, I got a pitch inside and up," said Gonzalez, who bats right-handed. "The second at-bat, it was a change-up. After that, they were throwing me outside the rest of the day."
It did not matter. She clubbed two doubles, and added another RBI.
The last time she drove in six runs?
"I honestly do not remember," Gonzalez said. "It was exciting."
In addition to Gonzalez and Majam, left fielder Alex Aguirre, right fielder Kanani Pu'u-Warren and catcher Katie Grimes hit homers.
After falling behind 8-7 in the fifth, the Rainbows scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth and four in the sixth to invoke the eight-run mercy rule.
It was the 20th time this season the Rainbows had forced an abbreviated game because of the mercy rule.
The Rainbows, who improved to 42-12, face self-proclaimed rival Fresno State today.
"We're excited," Gonzalez said.
The Rainbows won two of three games against the Bulldogs in a series played in Honolulu two weeks ago.
"We don't want them to think it was a hoax," Gonzalez said. "We want to come back and show we're WAC champions, and we're ready to defend the WAC title."
The game, which will start at 10 a.m. Hawai'i time, will be shown live on K5 (channel 5). There will not be a replay.