Fujino proud of Linfield softball's title run
By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
All that stands between Candice Fujino and graduating from college Sunday is one final exam, which she will take today.
"I'm not that worried about it," said Fujino, a senior softball player at Linfield (Ore.). "It's an art class."
Fujino has already had an eventful week — one that she won't soon forget. The 2006 Konawaena graduate from Kealakekua and the Wildcats made a magical postseason run that ended with a 5-4 loss in the NCAA Division III National Championship game.
"It was pretty amazing to be a part of this team and playing with these girls," said Fujino, a reserve infielder. "We just fell a little short (Monday) and it hurts, but I'm still proud of how far we came."
After capturing its seventh straight Northwest Conference title, Linfield swept through the regionals in Iowa to advance to the school's first Division III World Series appearance since 2007.
The Wildcats opened with a 4-3 win over Luther (Iowa) on Friday in Eau Claire, Wis. and then held off DePauw (Ind.), 2-1, Saturday. However, they lost 6-2 to East Texas Baptist Sunday to fall into the consolation bracket. Linfield rebounded with a 10-1 win over Eastern Connecticut in five innings on Monday, setting up a rematch with East Texas Baptist for the national championship later that day.
Linfield scored two runs in the first and fifth innings, but ETBU got single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth to close to 4-3 entering the bottom of the seventh. The Tigers got the leadoff batter on base and scored two runs on three hits to walk off with the national title.
"It's a very disappointing finish because I feel like we're probably one of the hardest working programs in Division III," Fujino said. "We start in January with 5 a.m. morning lifting and we set our goals high every year — every year we're looking at nationals — so that's what makes it even more disappointing."
Fujino, who played extensively in Linfield's 2007 postseason run to a national title, was used sparingly in her final two seasons, but came to embrace her role.
"As a sophomore I got to play enough and I played when I didn't really expect to play," said Fujino, who played in 27 games this season with eight hits in 33 at-bats and four RBIs. "This year was kind of disappointing, but I just tried to support my teammates. Especially being a senior — there are three of us — and having won a national title before, we feel like the younger players looked up to us. Even though I wasn't playing much this year, I wanted to be there for the team"
Fujino said there were times when she was unhappy with her lack of playing time, but approached it with a mature point of view.
"My dad is a baseball coach and growing up as a kid around him and knowing how coaches think, I knew I wasn't right to question my coaches' judgment," said Fujino, whose father (Lloyd) is the head coach at Konawaena. "I just recognized my role on the team and I tried to be more of a leader and this year ended up being just as much fun as when I was playing."
Fujino admitted the early success she had led to heightened expectations the rest of her career.
"I thought it would be a breeze the next three years — I thought it would be three more national championships," she said. "I think it was half way through my sophomore year that I kind of realized that it wasn't just going to happen, we had to make it happen."
Linfield failed to advance out of the regionals in 2008 and 2009, but this year went 34-5 record during the regular season, including a 26-1 NWC record. The Wildcats finished 42-7.
"My experience here was great. It would have been nice to leave with a national championship, but second place is pretty good and even though we won my freshman year, the experience wasn't as great as it is this year," Fujino said. "It was great getting to see these young kids play a lot this season and I'm really excited for them. Now they all have a taste of what it's like."
• East Carolina senior left fielder Marina Gusman-Brown (Pearl City '06 of 'Ewa Beach) batted 2 for 3 and drove in two runs in an 8-3 loss to BYU Saturday in the final game of the NCAA Division I Regional at Austin, Texas. She also scored a run and stole a base. Senior second baseman Charina Sumner (Kamehameha '06 of Kailua) also batted 2 for 3 and had a double for the Pirates (44-18), who finished with their most wins since the 2005 season.
• Metro State (Colo.) senior outfielder Kellie Nishikida (Pearl City '04) batted 3 for 8 to help the Roadrunners sweep Wayne State (Neb.) in an NCAA Division II Super Regional last weekend. She singled in Friday's 2-1 win and went 2 for 5 with an RBI in Saturday's 6-2 win in nine innings. Metro State (51-4) opens the World Series against Angelo State (48-13) tomorrow at Heritage Park in St. Joseph, Mo.
• Saint Martin's (Wash.) freshman designated player Joslyn Eugenio (Sacred Hearts '09 of Kapolei) earned Division II All-West Region Second Team honors from Daktronics. She led the Saints in batting (.392), doubles (20), slugging (.546), on-base percentage (.413), hits (76), RBIs (28) and total bases (106).
• Northwestern sophomore Paul Snieder (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) was selected to the All-Big Ten Conference First Team as a relief pitcher yesterday. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound right-hander is 2-3 with a 1.79 ERA and 12 saves. Snieder helped Northwestern take two out of three games against Michigan State this past weekend. He hit a three-run, walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday in an 8-6 win and pitched two scoreless innings to earn the victory. The Wildcats (24-30) are the third seed in the Big Ten Tournament and open against No. 6 seed Indiana today in the six-team, double-elimination tourney.
• Cal State Northridge junior outfielder Ridge Carpenter (Kalani '07 of Honolulu) batted 6 for 13 in a three-game series against Long Beach State last weekend. Carpenter also scored six runs and stole two bases as the Matadors swept the Dirtbags. Northridge (29-24, 9-12 Big West) closes the regular season with a three-game series against Cal State Fullerton this weekend.
• San Diego State freshman pitcher Matt McDaniel (Mid-Pacific '09 of Mililani) picked up his first win of the season in Saturday's 6-4 win over UNLV. The left-hander gave up four runs on 10 hits over 7 1/3 innings with nine strikeouts and no walks. The Aztecs (28-27) lost to Utah, 12-6, in yesterday's opening round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
• San Diego sophomore Zach Kometani (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) hit his sixth homer of the season in a 14-8 win over Cal State Northridge Monday. Kometani hit a solo shot in the eighth inning, when he entered as a pinch hitter. San Diego (34-18, 17-2 West Coast) took two of three from Pepperdine last weekend and visits UC Riverside today before ending the regular season with a three-game set against Saint Mary's this weekend.
• Grinnell (Iowa) senior second baseman Chad Takabuki (Mid-Pacific '06 of Honolulu) was named to the All-Midwest Conference South Division Team. He hit .324 with a .462 slugging percentage and nine doubles with 112 fielding assists (third in the MWC). Takabuki, a three-time first-team selection, tied a school record with four steals in a game and was 13 for 15 on the year.
• Saint Martin's (Wash.) sophomore first baseman Travis Jones (Mililani '08) was named NCAA Division II All-West Region Team Honorable Mention by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Jones, who led the Saints in batting (.333), slugging (.474), doubles (10) and RBIs (45), also was a First Team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
• Denver freshman Kimberly Kim (formerly of the Big Island) finished in a tie for 27th at 5-over 293 at the NCAA Division I Women's Championships in Wilmington, N.C. last week. Kim, who competed as an individual, shot rounds of 73-71-74-75. New Mexico senior Britney Choy (Leilehua '06 of Wahiawā) tied for 54th after shooting 74-75-75-74—298 to help the Lobos finish 16th. UCLA sophomore Stephanie Kono (Punahou '08 of Honolulu) shot 76-71-75-74—296 to tie for 43rd and help the Bruins place sixth.
• William Smith (N.Y.) junior Rebecca Charlton (Maryknoll '07 of Kaimukī) was recently named to both the Liberty League All-Academic Team and Eastern Collegiate Athletic Association/National Invitational Rowing Championships Stewards' All-Academic Team. Charlton, a cultural anthropology major, was also an all-academic, Liberty League selection last year.
• Mikey Lim (Punahou '06 of Honolulu), a senior who plays for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, helped the Stags to a 5-2 win over Trinity (Texas) in yesterday's quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division III Tournament in Oberlin, Ohio. Lim won 6-4 and 6-3 at No. 2 singles to help CMS advance to today's national semifinal against Amherst (Mass.).
WOMEN'S TRACK & FIELD
• Whittier (Calif.) freshman Courtney Honda (Kamehameha '09 of Hawai'i Kai) earned All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors after running the third leg of the 4x400 relay team that placed sixth at the SCIAC championships in a time of 4 minutes, 10.87 seconds.
• Former Stanford setter Kawika Shoji ('Iolani '06 of Honolulu) has been named to the A2 U.S. National Team, which is currently competing in the Pan American Cup in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Shoji recently completed his standout collegiate career by leading Stanford to the NCAA championship and was named National Player of the Year.
Advertiser Staff Writer Stanley Lee contributed to this report.