Hawaii Pacific fought off elimination once yesterday. But the Sea Warriors couldn’t escape a second time.
In the fading daylight in Kaneohe, HPU’s hopes of defending its Division II softball national championship evaporated with a 5-3 loss to Sonoma State at Howard A. Okita Field.
The loss knocked the Sea Warriors out of the NCAA Division II West 2 regional, while Sonoma State earned a shot at Cal State San Bernardino today with a berth in the Super Regionals at stake.
"It’s tough to go out like this," HPU senior center fielder Kozy Toriano said. "We definitely wanted to win it again, being that we won last year. But it was a good ride."
An extra-inning loss to CSUSB on Friday relegated HPU to the loser’s bracket yesterday. The Sea Warriors eliminated Pacific West Conference rival Dixie State with a 7-2 win and took an early lead against Sonoma State.
But the Seawolves, who lost to CSUSB 1-0 in yesterday’s first game, put together a four-run fourth inning and held off HPU the rest of the way to survive another day.
"We’re a very momentum-based team," Sonoma State coach Jennifer Bridges said. "It takes one fire starter and all of a sudden we’ve got a string going."
Sonoma State and CSUSB, both California Collegiate Athletic Association members, meet at noon today. If Sonoma State wins, the teams will play again in a winner-take-all game.
HPU arrived on campus yesterday hoping to make it a long afternoon and took the first step by ending Dixie State’s season.
Breanne Patton’s two-run double to left-center gave the Sea Warriors the lead in the bottom of the first. HPU loaded the bases in the second, and RBI singles by Chante Tesoro and Maile Kim highlighted the Sea Warriors’ four-run rally.
Ashley Valine kept the Red Storm off balance, and effective relief from Melissa Kirby preserved the win.
HPU again jumped out to an early lead on Sonoma State, with illegal pitches playing a prominent role early on.
Tesoro led off with a walk, advanced on an illegal pitch and scored on Kim’s double to left-center. Tesoro walked again in the third, advanced to second and third on illegal pitches by Sonoma State starter Samantha Lipperd and scored on an error to give the Sea Warriors a 2-0 lead.
"It hasn’t happened to us very much, but we’ve had it really bad on a couple of occasions," Bridges said. "Some games it gets called 20 times and some games they don’t get one called at all. It’s frustrating, but our pitchers have done a phenomenal job of being able to refocus and keep composed on the (pitcher’s circle)."
The Seawolves offense got into gear in the fourth with four consecutive singles. Sonoma State’s fifth hit of the inning, an infield single by Kayla Ledford, gave the Seawolves their first lead and Jesse Talaugon’s fielder’s-choice grounder scored their fourth run of the inning.
HPU closed to within a run in the fifth when Tesoro scored on Caira Pires’ looping single into right, which put runners on first and third with one out. But Sonoma State reliever Ciara Becerril got two flyouts to protect the 4-3 lead.
Sonoma State added an insurance run in the seventh on Brittanie Verissimo’s RBI single and Becerril needed just five pitches in the bottom of the inning to end HPU’s season.
"Last year we were even younger, and for them to end this way is kind of depressing for them," HPU coach Bryan Nakasone said. "But they’ll bounce back. They’re resilient enough.
"It’s really hard (coming through the loser’s bracket), but that’s the way it goes. Sometimes you’re fortunate enough to pull through and sometimes you just don’t get that timely hit."
|Dixie St. (33-14)||000||200||0||—||2||8||2|
Lauren Folta, Brittnie Miller (2) and Breanna Egge. Ashley Valine, Melissa Kirby (6) and Nicole Morrow. W–Valine. L–Folta.
Leading hitters–Dixie State: Egge, 2-4; Johnna Brown, 2-3, RBI; Kourtnie Schlacter, 2b. HPU: Chante Tesoro, 2-3, RBI, 2 runs; Kozy Toriano, 2-4, 2 runs; Maile Kim, 2 RBIs; Breanne Patton, 2b, 2 RBIs; Morrow, 2-3.
Samantha Lipperd, Julianne Martinez (4), Ciara Becerril (4) and Skylynn Myers. Breanne Patton, Ashley Valine (4), Melissa Kirby (7) and Nicole Morrow. W–Martinez. L–Patton.
Leading hitters–Sonoma State: Brittanie Verissimo, 2-4, RBI; Myers, 2-4, RBI; Rochelle Vanyi, 2-4, run. HPU: Chante Tesoro, 3 runs; Maile Kim, 2b, RBI; Caira Pires, 2-4, RBI.