The University of Hawaii softball team opened the NCAA tournament with a 3-0 win over Minnesota today in Seattle.
UH senior Kaia Parnaby won a duel of 30-game winners by throwing her 12th shutout of the season. She improved to 38-5 while holding Minnesota to four hits, striking out eight and walking one.
Senior shortstop Jessica Iwata went 3-for-3 and contributed a two-run single in UH’s decisive rally in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Rainbow Wahine (44-11) advanced to the winner’s bracket in the double-elimination regional at Husky Softball Stadium. They will next face Washington, which defeated Portland State 2-1 on Friday.
The UH-Washington game will be played on Saturday at 10 a.m. Hawaii time. If UH wins, it will advance to Sunday’s final round. If the Rainbow Wahine lose on Saturday, they will play at 3 p.m. against the winner of the Minnesota/Portland State game.
The pitchers controlled the game through four innings as Parnaby and Minnesota ace Sara Moulton allowed five hits between them and combined for 10 strikeouts before UH broke through in the fifth.
Minnesota threatened in the top of the fifth when Erica Meyer led off with a looping single into shallow right field and was sacrificed to second. But Parnaby got out of the inning by striking out Alex Davis and Erika Smyth.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Sharla Kliebenstein doubled to the left-center gap for UH’s fourth hit of the game. Moulton struck out Brynne Buchanan for the second out then intentionally walked Kelly Majam.
Kayla Wartner drew another walk to load the bases for Keiki Carlos, who slapped a 1-1 pitch to the left side of the infield. Shortstop Tyler Walker fielded the chopper but had no play and Kliebenstein scored the game’s first run on the infield single.
Iwata drilled the next pitch into center field to score Majam and pinch runner Kiani Wong and give UH a 3-0 lead.
Parnaby gave up a walk in the sixth and a double in the seventh, but preserved the shutout. After Meyer doubled with one out in the seventh, Parnaby got Paige Palkovich to fly out to center and Davis popped out to shortstop on Parnaby’s 101st pitch of the game.
Moulton (31-11) gave up six hits, struck out six and walked two and took the loss as Minnesota (35-18) fell into the loser’s bracket.