Hawaii Pacific in national final
By Bo Allegrucci
Special to The Advertiser
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — If you have 20 bucks in your pocket, it doesn't really matter if it's a 20-dollar bill or a 10, a 5 and five ones.
Facing a Metro State offense that led the nation in home runs and slugging percentage, a small-balling Hawai'i Pacific softball team full of freshmen and sophomores nickeled-and-dimed their way to a 7-2 victory yesterday in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II softball championship.
The Sea Warriors (49-8) advanced through the winner's bracket unbeaten and will play Valdosta State (50-8), a 3-2 winner against Angelo State, in the championship today at 9 a.m. Hawai'i time. The game will be broadcast on AM 1500 radio and CBS College Sports (Oceanic Digital Cable Channel 247).
HPU's Sherise Musquiz tamed the mighty Metro State (53-6) bats with seven innings of seven-hit ball, striking out four and walking one. The 6-foot senior from Pico Rivera, Calif., also batted 2 for 4 with three RBIs and a run scored, continuing a postseason spree that will go down in HPU lore.
"I can't think of a better way to end my career in the championship game, win or lose I'll be happy, but of course I want to win," said Musquiz, who was backed by a 14-hit attack that included 13 singles and a double. "When I came out I was hesitant with my pitches. I didn't want to go inside because they can pull everything, but I just throw it because I have so much confidence in my defense."
Metro State's defense, on the other hand, committed four costly errors and had at least that many makeable plays scored as hits. The Roadrunners held a brief 2-1 lead before surrendering six runs, including a three-run sixth that put Hawai'i Pacific safely ahead 7-2.
"You know, I almost felt like we were a little sharper because we didn't have the day off yesterday, but they just base-hit us to death and played great defense," Metro State coach Jen Fisher said.
Four of the first five Hawai'i Pacific hitters singled in the bottom of the first off Metro State starter Christie Robinson, who threw 20 innings in less than 24 hours at the Heritage Park Softball Complex.
Musquiz's two-out single scored Casey Sugihara to make it 1-0 in the first inning although the Sea Warriors left the bases loaded. HPU stranded 12 runners in the game.
After the Sea Warriors left two runners on in the second, Metro State took a 2-1 lead on Jenessa Tesone's two-out, two-run single in the top of the third.
The Sea Warriors continued marooning base-runners (two in the third and two more in the fourth), but they also regained the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth.
Chante Tesoro led off with an infield single and scored from third after the next three batters each laid down text-book bunts. Tesoro broke for home and craftily avoided a tag at the plate on the return throw from first following Maile Kim's sacrifice.
Nicole Morrow, who batted 3 for 4, followed with a single down the right-field line before Musquiz's single to short scored Casey Sugihara to make it 3-2.
HPU took a 4-2 lead in the fifth with a familiar formula: a leadoff single followed by two sacrifice bunts and a clutch two-out hit by Ciera Senas.
"At the start of the game we were kind of flat offensively," HPU coach Bryan Nakasone said. "We could've broken things open a lot earlier in the game, but we didn't get the timely hits and we had to push things and make things happen. We bunted a little more and ran a little more.
"Against anybody a one-run lead is never sufficient, so we wanted to try to get a couple more runs across the plate — at least."
Hawai'i Pacific piled on three more in the bottom of the sixth to put the Roadrunners on the ropes. Metro State made a pair of costly errors, with a run scoring on each.
"You can only make those plays so many times, and not to make excuses, but at this point in the tournament your arms start getting a little tired," Fisher said. "We weren't quite as crisp, and they put the bat on the ball and they have great base-running. They put the pressure on us and that probably did wear us down a little bit."
Caira Pires batted 3 for 4 and Tesoro went 2 for 3.
Kellie Nishikida, a former Pearl City High and HPU player, batted 1 for 3 for Metro State. ... Hawai'i Loa College won the NAIA national title in 1991. It merged with HPU in 1992.