Rainbow Wahine roll to WAC softball title WAC tournament champs — at last!
No. 21 Hawai'i wasn't waiting around for someone to get things started at yesterday's Western Athletic Conference softball tournament championship in Las Cruces, N.M.
The Rainbows (44-13) sent nine batters up in a six-run first inning to roll over defending champion Fresno State, 14-3, to win their first tournament title and secure an NCAA regional berth that comes with it. The game was called after five innings because of the league's run rule (eight-run differential after five).
The victory came after the Bulldogs (38-19) took the opener, 4-3, to force the title game of the double-elimination tournament. Hawai'i blasted FSU, 16-1, Friday to send the Bulldogs to the elimination bracket. Fresno State beat Boise State, 6-5, Friday to advance to yesterday's title games.
"Everyone was waiting for someone to take care of the run production," UH coach Bob Coolen said. "In the second game, everyone went up there with the attitude that they were going to take care of it themselves. There was no looking over the shoulder, like 'It's your turn, it's your turn.' "
Leadoff hitter Kelly Majam set the tempo when she drilled FSU starter Mackenzie Oakes' 3-1 offering to center for her nation-leading 28th home run to start the game. It was the first of five homers for the Rainbows, who increased their national single-season record to 141.
"We definitely didn't play the way we wanted to in that first game," Majam said. "In between games, we talked about it. I definitely felt the need to jump start the team. That's why as leadoff (batter), I'm supposed to set the table for us. I tried to get the job done. Thankfully, I did."
Later in the inning, Amanda Tauali'i dropped the hammer on the Bulldogs with a grand slam to center. It was off the first pitch after Oakes walked Kanani Pu'u-Warren.
"It was the most exhilarating moment of my life," Tauali'i said. "I really wanted to put us far ahead as possible.
"It was a pitch down the middle, a pitch I couldn't pass up. If it's good, I'll swing at it."
The six-run first eased starting pitcher Kaia Parnaby (19-6), who lost to the Bulldogs during the regular season.
"I had payback on my mind because they beat me the last time," said Parnaby, who allowed three runs and six hits in the complete game. "It had my mind at ease, knowing I had all those runs to back me up and my defense to back me up."
The Rainbows would score in every inning. They added four in the second on a two-run double by Jenna Rodrigues and two-run homer by Alex Aguirre to make it 10-0 before the Bulldogs went through their entire batting order.
Hawai'i got single runs in the next two innings on a bases-loaded hit batsman by Aguirre and a solo homer by Traci Yoshikawa to make it 12-0.
In the opener, it was the Bulldogs who jumped out to an early lead with a three-run first against UH starter Stephanie Ricketts (24-7), who was charged with four runs, six hits and two walks in five-plus innings.
Bulldogs' starter Michelle Moses (11-1) went four-plus innings, allowing three runs, nine hits and two walks. Oakes pitched the final three scoreless innings for the save.
The Rainbows pulled to within one in the fifth, but the damage was done throughout the game. Hawai'i stranded 14 runners, leaving the bases loaded twice.
It was the only game in the tournament UH didn't homer.
"We didn't play the way we wanted to," Majam said. "We didn't hit any home runs and that's not Hawai'i softball."
Majam was named the tournament's MVP. She was one of four Rainbows named to the all-tournament team. Joining her was third baseman Gonzalez, shortstop Jessica Iwata and catcher Katie Grimes.
Players joined their families who made the trip after the game, but were to meet for an outing as a team later last night, Tauali'i said. They will remain in Las Cruces, do some weight-lifting and conditioning this morning. And the players don't mind working out after winning the title.
"We're working for the big prize," Tauali'i said.
The team will gather later in the day at a sports bar to watch the NCAA Regional selection show, Coolen said. The selection show will be broadcast on ESPNU at 4 p.m., Hawai'i time.