POSTED: 3:33 p.m. HST, May 11, 2011
Hawaii opened defense of its Western Athletic Conference softball tournament title with a 6-1 win over Utah State today in Fresno, Calif.
The Rainbow Wahine (37-16) scored four unearned runs in the bottom of the first and freshman Sharla Kliebenstein hit a two-run homer in the fourth in support of junior right-hander Stephanie Ricketts.
Ricketts, named the WAC Pitcher of the Year today, became UH’s all-time strikeout leader in a complete-game victory.
The Wahine advanced to face top-seeded New Mexico State tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. Hawaii time. Utah State fell into the loser’s bracket and will have an elimination game.
Ricketts escaped a jam in the top of the first and the Wahine took control with four runs in the bottom of the inning.
The Wahine had the bases loaded with two out when Alex Aguirre grounded back to pitcher Mandy Harmon. The throw to first was wild allowing Kelly Majam and Jasey Jensen to score. An error on Kliebenstein’s grounder to shortstop scored Jenna Rodriguez. Aguirre then stole home when Kliebenstein was caught in the rundown off first.
The Aggies got on the scoreboard in the top of the second when Kassandra Uchida tripled to right and later scored on an error.
Utah State threatened again in the top of the fourth when Megan McDonald doubled to left with two out. Nichole McDonald attempted to score from first but was thrown out at the plate on a relay from Aguirre to third baseman Melissa Gonzalez to Kliebenstein.
Kliebenstein then hit a two-run homer to center in the bottom of the fourth to give the Wahine a 6-1 lead.
Utah State loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but Ricketts fielded a grounder to start a game-ending double play.
Ricketts (22-11) tied the UH career strikeout record in the top of fourth and passed former Wahine great Brooke Wilkins in the sixth with the 586th of her career. Ricketts finished the game with four strikeouts, walked four and gave up eight hits.