The University of Hawaii softball team opened a pivotal Big West series with a 7-4 win over Long Beach State tonight.
In the win, UH senior pitcher Kaia Parnaby, the nation’s leader in victories, was hit in the face by a batted ball in the top of the fourth inning and left the game. Freshman Loie Kesterson replaced Parnaby in the circle and earned the win.
The Rainbow Wahine extended their lead in the conference standings while improving to 38-8 overall and 15-1 in Big West play.
The Wahine, who led 3-1 when Parnaby left the game, added four runs in the bottom of the inning highlighted by Jessica Iwata’s two-run homer and Kesterson held off the 49ers.
Kelly Majam opened the bottom of the first by drilling a shot inside the first-base bag for a leadoff triple. After a strikeout and a popup, Iwata hit a grounder to shortstop. The throw to first was dropped, allowing Majam to score the game’s first run.
Majam doubled to left field with one out in the third and advanced on Kayla Wartner’s line single to center. Keiki Carlos singled over the third baseman to score Majam and Jessica Iwata followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to give UH a 3-0 lead.
Shayna Kimbrough led off the top of the fourth with a single into left field and advanced to third when the ball was misplayed. With two out, Darian Tautalafua’s sharp grounder bounced up and hit Parnaby in the face, knocking her to the ground.
Parnaby stayed there while being attended to by a trainer and later walked off the field holding a towel to her nose.
Kesterson finished out the inning and the UH offense gave her breathing room with the four-run rally in the bottom of the fourth.
Kayla Wartner’s single to right scored Sharla Kliebenstein from second and a throwing error on the relay to third allowed Majam to score.
With two out in the inning, Iwata launched a home run to left field, her sixth of the year, to stretch the lead to 7-1.
LBSU scored a single run in the sixth and closed to 7-4 on Ashley Holmes’ two-run homer with two out in the seventh before Kesterson got a groundout to shortstop to end the game.
The series concludes Saturday with a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m.