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HPU falls in NCAA regional opener

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    Cal State San Bernardino first baseman Alyssa Flores doubled up HPU baserunner Caira Pires.

Rested or rusty?

Either way, three weeks is a long time to be off, especially when the only game the Cal State San Bernardino softball team played was a waiting game.

The Coyotes didn’t even make their conference tournament, finishing fifth in the powerful California Collegiate Athletic Association, which sent four teams to the NCAA Division II tournament. But seventh-seeded CSUSB, proving that the postseason is truly a new season, made a huge statement yesterday as an at-large selection.

In only their second NCAA tournament appearance, the Coyotes upset defending NCAA champion Hawaii Pacific 3-2 in eight innings as the West 2 Regional opened at HPU’s Okita Field.

San Bernardino (33-22) rode the arm of Cassandra Lee (15-8) and the bats of Britney Butler and Alyssa Flores into today’s 11 a.m. semifinal against CCAA rival Sonoma State.

The third-seeded Seawolves (37-25) got a walk-off RBI single with no outs in the bottom of the eighth to rally past sixth-seeded Dixie State, 3-2, in yesterday’s second game.

San Bernardino was happy to be back on the field and extending its season.

"I was definitely nervous, having those three weeks off," said Coyotes coach Tacy Duncan, whose team last played April 23. "But we had two weeks off before the Turlock Tournament (won by HPU) and we won five of seven games. I told the team with three weeks off, we should win all our games.

"We made the plays, made some gutsy throws, and got a little luck when we needed it. I feel we’re in great position now."

The Sea Warriors (33-10) are in a tougher spot. HPU will need to win two today and two tomorrow to come out of the loser’s bracket and into next week’s super regional.

"We didn’t get the timely hits," said HPU coach Bryan Nakasone, whose team stranded five. "We hit it solidly but right at them. We got the long flyouts but they were with two outs and that doesn’t help.

"But I thought we had good composure. We came back. We just needed that one timely hit."

The Coyotes took a 2-0 lead on Butler’s two-run homer over left-center in the top of the fourth.

HPU scored in the bottom of the inning, with Caira Pires’ sacrifice fly to right scoring Chante Tesoro.

Tesoro, who finished 3-for-4, tied the game with a two-out single to left, driving in Celina Garces.

HPU pitcher Breanne Patton (23-3) got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the sixth, and Lee got help when the Coyotes turned a double play to end the bottom of the inning.

Patton looked to avoid another problem in the eighth after giving up a leadoff walk, but followed with her second strikeout and a foul pop-up. The Coyotes then loaded the bases on consecutive singles and Felicia Cervantes scored the go-ahead run on Flores’ single to center.

The Sea Warriors threatened in their last at-bat with one out and Kozy Toriano at first. Maile Kim, HPU’s RBI and batting leader, drilled a ball to right.

Toriano was held up at third while Kim was waved on to second, where she was thrown out. Toriano was 60-feet away from tying it up when Lee got Pires to ground out to second.

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