Hawaii Pacific hosts Chico St.
By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Hawai'i Pacific softball team's journey to its ultimate destination — St. Joseph, Mo., home of the NCAA Division II national championship tournament — has one final road block: Chico State.
The Sea Warriors will host the Wildcats in a best-of-three series starting today in the NCAA Division II West Super Regional at Howard A. Okita Field in Kāne'ohe.
The Sea Warriors won their first regional in history last week, claiming a four-team West Sub-Regional at Okita Field. Chico State won the other West Sub-Regional at Rohnert Park, Calif.
"Right now winning the regional tournament was a big accomplishment for us because we've never come that far," said HPU junior center fielder Kozy Toriano. "We are confident and hopefully we can come out with a win."
HPU and Chico State will play at 2 p.m. today; and at 11 a.m. tomorrow with an "if necessary" game to follow at 1:30 p.m.
"All we know is what we see on their stat sheet, but that's not always indicative of what they are," said HPU coach Bryan Nakasone. "Right now they must be peaking because they beat three good teams in their regional."
The series winner advances to the Elite Eight national championship tournament in St. Joseph, Mo., May 27 to 31.
On paper, a couple of things look favorable for Hawai'i Pacific. The Sea Warriors are:
• ranked No. 3 in the NFCA Division II Top 25 poll; Chico State, which finished fourth in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, is unranked.
• 18-2 at home this season and 59-6 over the past three seasons.
• led by senior ace Sherise Musquiz, one of the top pitchers in school history. Musquiz is 28-2 on the year with a 1.15 ERA, and holds HPU records for single-season (28) and career victories (82).
"Not only this season, it's been all four years," Nakasone said of Musquiz. "She's been a tremendous work horse for us. She has a tremendous work ethic, good demeanor about her, very confident and very coachable."
Musquiz is one of four players who has been a part of HPU's four consecutive Pacific West Conference championship teams.
But the Sea Warriors also are young with nine freshmen on their 18-player roster.
Nakasone said, "four or five of them might start at any given time."
HPU has 12 local players on its roster, including seven who start.
"In Hawai'i, we have a lot of good talent, a lot of athleticism in most of the kids," said Nakasone, in his second year as HPU coach. "When you have that, you can work them at any position. It's becoming evident because the Mainland DI schools are coming here to recruit. It's good for Hawai'i."
The local starters on the Sea Warriors' roster are: freshman shortstop Celina Garces (Mililani), sophomore first baseman Breanne Patton (Campbell), freshman third baseman Caira Pires (Kalāheo), senior left fielder Ciera Senas (Mililani), senior second baseman Casey Sugihara (Mililani), freshman right fielder Chante Tesoro (Hawai'i Baptist) and Toriano (Kamehameha-Hawai'i).
"The local girls are real welcoming to the Mainland girls. We all get along and hang out," Musquiz said.
SOLID GLOVE WORK
Musquiz, as dominant as she is, needs to rely on her defense since she doesn't strike out a lot of batters.
The 6-foot right-hander has struck out 100 batters in 187 1/3 innings this season.
"I think the defense is doing awesome," she said. "I'm not a strikeout pitcher so I don't get every out myself. I pitch to contact and let the defense do their job, and they've been helping me out a lot."
The Sea Warriors are especially solid defensively up the middle with Sugihara at second, Garces at short and Toriano in center.
"Our defense definitely has to play good for us to win our games," Toriano said. "Our pitcher, Sherise, is definitely good and we try our best to back her up. Our defense is probably one of the best I've seen since I've been here."
ALL-WEST REGION TEAM
The Sea Warriors placed three players on the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division II All-West Region first team, announced yesterday.
Musquiz (pitcher), Maile Kim (designated player) and Toriano (utility) were selected to the 13-player squad.
All three are eligible for the Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-America teams that will be announced during the national championship tournament.
HPU's Senas made the 12-player second team as an outfielder.