The home runs Stephanie Ricketts surrendered created some tension at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium going into the sixth inning.
She then eased much of that pressure with a blast of her own.
With UH protecting a one-run lead late in the game, Ricketts launched the first of back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the sixth and the Wahine defeated Utah State 5-2 last night to open the Western Athletic Conference season.
After giving up homers to Utah State’s Kelley Kaneshiro and Megan McDonald earlier in the game, Ricketts responded in the sixth with a shot that easily cleared the 40-foot screen beyond the left-field fence. Jasey Jensen followed with the first homer of her UH career to give Ricketts some breathing room heading into the seventh.
"When I came into the dugout after (McDonald’s homer in the fifth) I knew I had to get runs back because I let them hit two home runs off me," Ricketts said.
"I was just happy I hit it hard because I’d been struggling hitting the ball. And then (first-base coach) Dee (Wisneski) was cheering and I was like, ‘OK, I can slow down.’ "
With the win, the Wahine (23-9, 1-0 WAC) snapped a four-game losing streak. Utah State (5-24, 0-1) has lost 11 straight.
Ricketts improved to 14-7, giving up six hits and striking out eight in her 20th complete game of the year.
Given the heavy workload Ricketts has carried as a pitcher, her hitting opportunities had been limited to 13 career at-bats entering last night’s game. UH coach Bob Coolen gave her a chance to swing the bat last night and the home run was just her fourth hit in three seasons in Manoa and her second homer.
"She’s been wanting to hit, she knows she has to be aggressive and that opened it up a little bit," Coolen said.
Jensen hit four home runs in two seasons at Utah before transferring to UH for her senior year, and made the most of a pinch-hitting appearance last night.
"It felt good because I’d been in such a slump and we’ve been working really hard in practice," said Jensen, who grew up in Layton, Utah, and played youth softball with Utah State’s Shasta and Shelby Tyteca.
The Aggies jumped ahead in the first inning on a solo homer by Kaneshiro. The Wahine answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning. The first three UH hitters reached base and scored on a walk to Jenna Rodriguez, Alex Aguirre’s single to left and a fielder’s choice grounder by Melissa Gonzalez. The rally marked the first time in 40 innings that UH scored multiple runs in an inning.
Utah State starter Mandy Harmon (4-16) held the Wahine for four innings and McDonald’s homer cut the UH lead to one.
The series concludes today with a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m.
No. 21 HAWAII 5, UTAH STATE 2
At Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
|USU||(5-24, 0-1)||100||010||0 2||6||0|
|HAWAII||(23-9, 1-0)||300||002||x 5||7||0|
Mandy Harmon, Shelbi Tyteca (6) and Tina Ferguson. Stephanie Ricketts and Sharla Kliebenstein. W—Ricketts (14-7). L—Harmon (4-16).
Leading hitters—USU: Kelley Kaneshiro 1-2, HR, RBI; Megan McDonald 1-3, HR, RBI.
UH: Alex Aguirre 2-3, RBI; Ricketts 1-2, HR, RBI; Jasey Jensen 1-1, HR, RBI; Melissa Gonzalez 1-3, RBI; Jenna Rodriguez RBI; Jessica Iwata 2B; Kliebenstein 2B.