Following two one-run losses, the Hawaii softball team walked out of Bulldog Diamond perhaps for the last time.
Not that the Rainbow Wahine will miss it much.
Fresno State’s home ballpark hasn’t produced many bright moments for the Wahine over the years, and yesterday’s twin losses, knocking them out of the the Western Athletic Conference tournament, added another chapter of frustration.
“This just hasn’t been a great place for us,” UH head coach Bob Coolen said.
UH opened the day with a 5-4 loss to New Mexico State and followed with a 2-1 defeat to host Fresno State in an elimination game that likely ended the season for the Wahine.
In the first game, the Wahine — who won three one-run games against New Mexico State in the regular season — found themselves on the other end when Kamehameha graduate Hoku Nohara hit a game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
In the loser’s bracket game, Fresno State pitcher Michelle Moses then protected a slim lead to earn her third win over the Wahine this year.
The Wahine (37-18) entered the tournament at No. 55 in the RPI and likely needed a deep run in the WAC tournament to bolster their case for an at-large bid to the 64-team NCAA tournament field, which will be announced on Sunday.
“They’re not going to go more than two deep (from the WAC),” Coolen said. “I already said my farewells to the seniors.”
With UH and Fresno State both leaving the WAC in 2012 and with the Bulldogs scheduled to play in Honolulu next season, yesterday’s games may have been UH’s last in Fresno for the foreseeable future. (UH softball will play in the Big West, while Fresno State will be in the Mountain West.)
The day began with hope for the Wahine, as they led 4-1 going into the sixth inning against New Mexico State.
NMSU closed to within a run on Kylie Randall’s two-run double in the sixth and UH couldn’t add any cushion in the top of the seventh. UH reliever Jenna Rodriguez walked Tiare Jennings to open the bottom of the inning and Nohara, the nation’s home run leader, then launched her 22nd of the season to send UH into the loser’s bracket.
The Wahine and Bulldogs had to wait out Boise State’s 13-inning win over Louisiana Tech before taking the field nearly 2 hours after the scheduled start.
“It was tough, but we went into (the Fresno State) game with a lot of hope and a lot of confidence that we would win that game,” UH senior Melissa Gonzalez said. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
Fresno State’s Haley Gilleland tripled on the first pitch from UH’s Kaia Parnaby and scored on Andrea Ortega’s sacrifice fly.
Moses and Parnaby then traded zeroes until Fresno State designated player Courtney Moore hit a solo home run to right in the sixth inning for what proved to be the decisive run.
UH, which was no-hit by Moses earlier this season, ended a run of 19 2/3 scoreless innings against her when Sharla Kliebenstein singled to center to score Jazmine Zamora in the bottom of the sixth.
The Wahine stranded runners on second and third in that inning and put the tying run on with one out in the seventh. But Moses got a foul popout and a flyout to end the game and complete Fresno State’s season sweep of the Wahine.
“Right when the game ended I kind of knew that that was not only the end of the season but the end of my career,” Gonzalez said. “It was hard to think about, but one thing softball has taught me is you have to be strong and have to keep looking forward.”
At Bulldog Diamond (All times Hawaii time ) Wednesday
At Fresno, Calif.
Stephanie Ricketts, Jenna Rodriguez (4) and Sharla Kliebenstein. Alex Newman, Kelsey Schueler (5) and Brittany Clifton. W–Schueler. L–Rodriguez.
Kaia Parnaby and Sharla Kliebenstein. Michelle Moses and Kaitlin Griffin. W–Moses. L–Parnaby.