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UH falls, still alive for title

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It’s been a tough grind for the Hawaii softball team the past two weeks. But the Rainbow Wahine would like to put off spring break just a little bit longer.

Nationally ranked California handed Hawaii its third straight loss in the Chevron Spring Fling Tournament yesterday, prevailing 3-1 in a duel between Golden Bears ace Jolene Henderson and UH’s Stephanie Ricketts.

Although UH fell to 1-3 in the tourney, the Wahine clinched a tiebreaker to claim the third seed, thanks to solid pitching performances, and will face BYU today at 2 p.m. for the right to play for the tournament title at 4.

"(BYU coach Gordon Eakin) likes the short game, they like to run. If you let them, they’ll do it all day," UH head coach Bob Coolen said. "We have to keep runners off base and, obviously, score some runs or we’ll be going home early and we’re going to be watching the championship game."

Scoring runs has been the primary issue facing the Wahine of late. After being shut out twice on Thursday, UH ended a streak of 19 consecutive scoreless innings with a home run by Kelly Majam to lead off the third inning against Cal, ranked ninth and 10th in the national polls.

Compared to Thursday’s struggles — when the Wahine struck out 26 times in losses to BYU and Iona — Coolen said UH’s offensive approach against Cal was, "much better, but not there yet." The Wahine outhit the Bears 6-3 but left eight runners on base, including five in scoring position.

Scoring off of Henderson figured to be tough, as she began the week with the Pac-10’s lowest earned-run average and had reduced it to 0.73 by the time she took the field yesterday. She finished with nine strikeouts against one walk and improved to 18-2.

Ricketts (13-6) turned in yet another strong outing with six strikeouts and a walk. Ricketts has given up three hits or fewer in nine of her past 10 starts. Of the 10 runs she’s given up in that span, just three were earned. Two of Cal’s three runs yesterday were unearned.

UH was aided by Cleveland State’s 5-0 win over Iona earlier in the day to create a three-way tie. The Wahine avoided having to play in last night’s elimination game by virtue of giving up the fewest runs among the trio (nine).

"Our pitchers definitely saved us this week getting us the third seed because we gave up the least amount of runs," Majam said. "Our pitchers did great this weekend."

Cal (20-2) took the lead in the second when Henderson scored on a passed ball and Lindsey Ziegenhirt’s groundout scored Victoria Jones with the Bears’ second run.

UH cut the deficit in half on Majam’s home run, her sixth of the season and the first given up by Henderson in 127 1⁄3 innings this season.

UH loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but Henderson got a popup and a foul flyout.

Ricketts retired 12 consecutive hitters at one stretch, but the Bears added a run in the seventh on Ashley Decker’s two-out double.

At Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium

Cal (20-2) 020 000 1 — 3 3 2
Hawaii (22-8) 001 000 0 — 1 6 4

Jolene Henderson and Lindsey Ziegenhirt. Stephanie Ricketts and Sharla Kliebenstein. W—Henderson. L—Ricketts.
Leading hitters—Cal: Ashley Decker, 2B, RBI. Hawaii: Kelly Majam, HR; Jessica Iwata, 2-4; Kliebenstein, 2B.

Yesterday’s scores
Cleveland State 5, Iona 0
Cleveland State 2, Iona 1

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