It would have been easy to hang heads after losing a game that was very winnable, one in which:
» Hawaii Pacific outhit Dixie State by four and stranded 12 runners, including six on two bases-loaded situations; and
» Ace pitcher Breanne Patton gave up just six hits in losing for just the second time this season.
But 30 minutes between games of a doubleheader doesn’t leave much time to dig a deep mental and emotional hole. Instead the Sea Warriors rebounded from a 3-1 loss in the first game of yesterday’s PacWest softball doubleheader at Howard Okita Field, winning the second game 7-5.
The split kept Dixie State ahead of HPU by a game, with both teams finishing the regular season against Hawaii-Hilo this week. The Red Storm (32-11, 22-4) face the Vulcans (25-11, 18-4) in a doubleheader tomorrow in Hilo; the Sea Warriors host the Vulcans in a doubleheader Saturday.
The conference title is nice, but the important thing is to stay in the top eight in the regional rankings in order to be selected for the postseason tournament. HPU, the defending NCAA Division II champion, is No. 3 and Dixie State is No. 7.
"I don’t think the split moves us down," Sea Warriors coach Bryan Nakasone said. "What I was happy about was that we kept the positiveness, which really has worked for us this year."
It was needed in the second game after HPU saw its 5-0, third-inning lead vanish as Dixie State, the designated home team, chipped away until tying it in the bottom of the fifth.
Enter Kozy Toriano. The senior center fielder singled in Melissa Awa with the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth, then scored the insurance run on Caira Pires’ deep triple to center.
Patton (22-2) finished the final two innings in relief of Ashley Valine to pick up her first save. She gave up one hit while facing seven batters.
"Things weren’t falling our way in the first game," Toriano said. "We came back with a lot of confidence. We knew we had played a good game.
"It was tough having a 5-0 lead and seeing them tie it. But we just stayed strong, believed in ourselves, knowing we just needed to get one run across. Dixie State is a good team and it was a good challenge for us today."
In the opener, Patton gave up six hits, including a solo home run by Anna Cue in the fifth.
"We talked about wanting to make the trip to Hawaii important, about the final four games (two each against Hawaii Pacific and Hawaii-Hilo) matter," Red Storm coach Randy Simpkins said. "We’re still right there (for the PacWest title). We need to take care of business in Hilo. In the PacWest, there are no ‘gimme’ games."