POSTED: 11:28 a.m. HST, Feb 14, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 12:23 a.m. HST, Feb 15, 2014
The University of Hawaii softball team split its doubleheader in the Easton Desert Classic on Thursday in Las Vegas, falling to Florida 11-1 then hanging on to beat Seattle 9-8.
In UH's first game of the day at UNLV's Eller Media Stadium, Florida's Lauren Haeger homered twice for the Gators (8-0), who entered the tournament ranked first in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 and second in the USA Today/NFCA coaches poll.
The Gators hit four home runs in support of pitcher Hannah Rogers, who held UH to one hit over four innings. Delaney Gourley closed out the game in the fifth.
Leisha Li'ili'i's solo home run in the fourth inning accounted for UH's lone hit of the game.
Florida took the lead with a three-run rally with two out in the top of the second. After two groundouts, the Gators loaded the bases on two walks and an error. Kirsti Merritt then singled up the middle to score Taylore Fuller and Katie Medina. Moments later, Kelsey Stewart scored on a back end of a double steal to give Florida a 3-0 lead.
Florida pulled away in the fourth when Fuller walked, advanced on a bunt and scored on Stewart's triple to left field. Merritt drove in Stewart with a sacrifice fly and Haeger followed with a home run to give the Gators a 6-0 lead.
Li'ili'i broke up the no-hitter and the shutout with her fourth home run of the season, a solo shot to left field with two out in the bottom of the fourth off of Rogers, a first-team NFCA All-American last season.
The Gators pulled away again in the fifth on home runs by Aubree Munro, Stewart and Haeger against UH left-hander Loie Kesterson, who walked five and struck out two and fell to 0-2.
Kesterson returned in a relief appearance against Seattle and shut out the Redhawks over the final three innings to earn the victory.
UH freshman Lindsey Willmon opened the scoring with a leadoff home run in the top of the first inning and the Wahine and Redhawks combined for 17 runs in the game's first four innings.
A three-run fourth inning gave UH a 9-6 lead and Seattle answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning when Kesterson surrendered an RBI single and a bases-loaded walk.
But those would be the final runs of the game as Kesterson protected the lead the rest of the way. Seattle loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, but shortstop Kristina Akiona threw a runner out at the plate and Kesterson fielded another ground ball to escape the jam.
Seattle put the tying run on second with one out in the seventh, but two more groundouts ended the game.
UH third baseman Alyssa Villalpando went 3-for-4 with an RBI and freshman second baseman Sarina Jaramillo was 2-for-3 and drove in three runs.
UH (5-3) continues its four-day run in the tournament on Saturday with a single game against Portland State.