UH bats show pop in 10-2 win Playing like there is no tomorrow
By Jake Curtis
Special to The Advertiser
STANFORD, Calif. — Hawai'i added to its record-breaking home run total yesterday, but a popup that landed in the infield provided the final runs and ended the Rainbow Wahine's five-inning, 10-2 victory over UC Davis in the NCAA Division I softball regional playoffs.
Hawai'i, the top seed in this four-team, double-elimination regional, will play host Stanford today at 9 a.m. (Hawai'i time). The Cardinal beat Texas Tech, 5-4, in yesterday's other regional opener.
If the Rainbow Wahine (45-13) beat Stanford they would stay in the winners' bracket and advance to tomorrow's round. If the 'Bows lose this morning, they would play the winner of the UC Davis-Texas Tech game today at 3 p.m. (Hawai'i time) in an elimination game.
Hawai'i pitcher Stephanie Ricketts, who grew up just 20 minutes away from the Stanford campus in San Jose, needed to work only five innings to get the complete-game victory against UC Davis (26-28).
"I came to the regionals here last year just to watch," said Ricketts, "so it was nice to be playing in it this time."
Ricketts (25-7) has won 13 consecutive starts and was the beneficiary of the Rainbow Wahine's powerful offense.
This time, Amanda Tauali'i supplied the home run for UH, which has 142 homers for the season, eight more than the previous single-season Division I record and 29 more than Georgia Tech, which ranks second in that category this year.
The Rainbow Wahine have hit at least one home run in 14 of their past 15 games and in 49 of their 58 games overall.
However, it was a ball that landed about 50 feet from home plate that ended yesterday's game by the eight-run mercy rule.
"They were coming back and we put the game away in that last inning with the aid of the wind game," Hawai'i coach Bob Coolen.
The "wind game" came into play in the bottom of the fifth inning. The 'Bows led 8-2 with two outs and the bases loaded when Alex Aguirre launched a high popup that seemed destined to land somewhere behind the UC Davis dugout. But as Davis first baseman Sarah Axelson wandered about 20 feet into foul territory, the strong wind that blew throughout the game sent the ball back toward the infield.
Eventually it landed just a few feet from the pitcher's circle, with no Davis fielder within 10 feet of it. Two runs scored to end the game.
Hawai'i had taken control of the game at the outset, scoring three runs in the first inning and two in the second to knock Davis starter Alex Holmes, the Big West Conference pitcher of the year, out of the game.
Nonetheless, Davis coach Karen Yoder thought her pitchers did an admirable job against Hawai'i, which leads the country in scoring and slugging percentage.
"We gave up only one extra-base hit and that was the home run by their seventh-place hitter," Yoder said. "We controlled the top part of their batting order."
The Aggies closed to 5-2 before Tauali'i belted her 17th homer of the season well over the 220-foot sign in dead center field to begin the fifth inning. Three walks, a Davis error and an infield hit set the stage for Aguirre's game-ending popup.