POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, May 1, 2011
The timely hitting conspicuously absent from the Hawaii offense for much of the conference season showed up just in time to propel the Rainbow Wahine to a dramatic senior night sweep.
The Wahine scored in their final turns at-bat in both games of yesterday's Western Athletic Conference doubleheader with New Mexico State, and senior Jenna Rodriguez delivered clutch relief performances in twin 5-4 wins before an overflow crowd at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium last night.
Alex Aguirre delivered her second game-winning hit of the series in yesterday's opener, a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning. Jessica Iwata closed UH's home schedule with a walkoff hit for the second year in a row as her looping RBI single in the seventh inning of the finale completed the series sweep.
In her final appearance at RWSS, Rodriguez earned the pitching wins in both games with shutout relief appearances against the WAC's top offense.
"It's just the greatest feeling that Coach believes in me to come in and just help this team," Rodriguez said. "It means the world and there's no doubt in my mind Ilove pressure situations. That's what I live for, that's why I play the game.
"I think I went out with a bang and the team went out with an even bigger bang."
Rodriguez also went 3-for-6 in the doubleheader with two doubles and an RBI. Fellow senior Jasey Jensen singled in both games, and Melissa Gonzalez went 2-for-3 in the opener, her sixth-inning single setting up Aguirre's game-winner.
UH (33-16, 11-7 WAC) closes the regular season at San Jose State this week before heading to Fresno, Calif., for the WAC tournament. In losing the series, New Mexico State (27-15, 14-4) fell out of first place in the conference and now trails Boise State by a game going into the final weekend of the regular season.
UH head coach Bob Coolen said the two scrimmages the Wahine held last week helped prepare them for the clutch situations they faced against the Aggies. All of UH's runs in the second game came on two-out hits.
NMSU hit three home runs in yesterday's first game, and took a 4-3 lead on Ashley Maroda's solo homer in the top of the sixth.
But UH answered each time, and the Wahine took their first lead when Aguirre — who ended Friday's series opener with an RBI single in UH's 3-2 win — hit a towering shot to left-center for her fifth homer of the season and her first since March 13, a span of 21 games.
"Those are good games for us to prove to ourselves even when we do get behind we're fighting through it," Aguirre said. "Iwas amazed at how much better we hit this weekend. It's all coming together at the right time."
Rodriguez, who relieved Kaia Parnaby following Maroda's home run, got the first two outs of the seventh before walking Tiare Jennings. She then struck out NCAA home run leader Hoku Nohara looking to end the game.
"Her ball was moving. She had pop, she wanted to come in," Coolen said. "Iknow she wanted to go out like this."
The Wahine jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second game, but Kapolei graduate Tehani Kaaihue gave the Aggies new life with a three-run homer to left with two out in the sixth to tie the game.
Rodriguez came in for Stephanie Ricketts later in the sixth and stranded NMSU runners at second and third in the seventh. Makani Duhaylonsod-Kaleimamahu began the bottom of the seventh with a single to left. With two out Jensen drew a walk, to push pinch runner Jazmine Zamora to second. Iwata then hit a looper to left that glanced off the glove of shortstop Kylie Randall and fell to the turf as Zamora turned third and scored the winning run.
"I didn't see it too well, but I just wanted to get the job done. We didn't want to play another inning," said Iwata, who went 4-for-6 with five RBIs yesterday and punctuated last year's senior night with a walkoff homer.
|NMSU (37-14, 14-3)||120||001||0||—||4||7||0|
|Hawaii (32-16, 10-7)||102||002||x||—||5||10||0|
|NMSU (37-15, 14-4)||001||003||0||—||4||10||1|
|Hawaii (33-16, 11-7)||002||200||1||—||5||7||0|