UH plays for Series berth In time, softball could be ticket out
Winning for Hawaii
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. Alabama softball
By Christopher Walsh
Special to the Advertiser
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Hawai'i softball team crossed home plate once when facing Alabama ace Kelsi Dunne yesterday, but it turned out to be the most important run of the day.
After the top-seeded Crimson Tide rallied from a six-run deficit to tie the score, Traci Yoshikawa scored on Jessica Iwata's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth inning and the Rainbow Wahine held on for an 8-7 victory to force a winner-take-all game today in an NCAA Division I Softball Super Regional.
The decisive game of the three-game series will be held at 7 a.m. Hawai'i time at the Alabama Softball Complex, and shown on ESPN. The winner advances to the College World Series.
"It's always great to get a run in the sixth inning like that," said coach Bob Coolen, whose Rainbow Wahine were the designated home team in yesterday's second game. "You only need three outs.
"It wasn't an easy three outs."
The victory snapped Alabama's program-record 28-game winning streak, which dated back to March 13 and included yesterday's 8-0 victory in the morning game.
"You saw the reason why Hawai'i is here," Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. "It could have gone either way the second game. But they made the pitches when they needed to and got the key hits."
After struggling against Dunne in the opener, when she threw a two-hitter in a game shortened to five innings by the eight-run mercy rule, Hawai'i had much more success against Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Charlotte Morgan, who was making her first pitching appearance since May 8.
Freshman center fielder Kelly Majam led off the first with her NCAA-leading 30th home run of the season, Iwata crunched a grand slam as part of a five-run second inning, and Yoshikawa hit her 11th of the season in the fourth to give UH a 7-1 lead.
"We definitely were more comfortable," Majam said. "I think the first game there we may have been a little star-struck from the crowd, TV and stuff like that. We settled down, (but) didn't play the way that we usually play the first game."
Actually, Hawai'i (48-14) wanted to put Game 1 so far behind that in addition to switching dugouts to be the home team the players also asked to change jerseys, from black to gray.
"It was definitely just 'forget about it'," Majam said.
The 'Bows' five-run second began when Morgan hit Alex Aguirre with a pitch, then bobbled Kanani Pu'u-Warren's comebacker. Amanda Tauali'i's grounder to second advanced the runners and Katie Grimes singled to left to score Aguirre. Yoshikawa grounded to third, with Pu'u-Warren holding and pinch-runner Brynne Buchanan taking second. With first base open, Alabama chose to intentionally walk Majam and face fellow freshman Iwata.
"It was an inside drop, and coach basically gave me a few words to believe in myself and get me a little pumped up," Iwata said of her 18th home run of the season. "After walking Kelly they were leaving it up to me."
Alabama (52-10) came roaring back and tied the score at 7 in the fifth inning. Morgan's two-run single keyed the six-run rally, which lasted 11 batters and included six hits and two walks.
"When Alabama came back, our pitcher on the mound had lost composure, her presence disappeared," Coolen said of starter Kaia Parnaby, who had allowed just three hits and one run through four innings.
With the sellout crowd of 3,218 roaring to life and Dunne relieving after freshman Lauren Sewell quieted the Hawai'i bats, the Tide stranded two runners in the sixth and then had the bases loaded with two outs in the seventh and Morgan at the plate.
But Stephanie Ricketts, the first-game starter who had replaced Parnaby with two outs in the fifth, got Morgan — who had six RBIs on the day — to pop out to second baseman Yoshikawa and end the game.
"I saw it and knew it was coming and just mis-hit it," Morgan said.
Ricketts (28-8), who reportedly had flu-like symptoms, earned the win while Dunne (30-5) took the loss.
In the first game, sophomore Amanda Locke supported Dunne with a pair of home runs — a solo shot in the second and a three-run shot during a six-run third inning that chased Ricketts.
"I picked my pitch and she just happened to throw it there," Locke said of the change-up.
Morgan had the other big hit, a two-run single to right with the bases loaded, and had the bases loaded again with no outs in the fourth when she hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring in the clinching eighth run.
Murphy said Dunne will start on the mound today, while Coolen did not announce a starting pitcher.
"We're just glad we get to play again," Murphy said. "The seniors get another opportunity. It's do-or-die. I think they'll all be ready to come out and put it on the line."