By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
The University of Hawaii at Hilo softball team will chase a silver medal today in the 12th annual Mizuno Tournament of Champions in Turlock, Calif.
The Vulcans edged UC San Diego 4-3 early Saturday before falling to Cal State Dominguez Hills 5-2 in pool play of the 21-team NCAA Division II women’s collegiate tournament. The event wraps up today with the Vulcans (32-15 overall, 4-1 TOC) taking on Central Washington (16-12) at 10 a.m. in the single-elimination Silver Bracket.
If UHH beats the Wildcats, it will meet the UC San Diego vs. Cal State Monterey Bay/Hawaii Pacific University winner at 12:15 p.m. in the Silver bracket final.
The Vulcans, under head coach Jaime Wallin, finished the opening round Friday with a 3-0 record, with wins over Cal State East Bay (5-0), Northwest Nazarene University (5-1) and San Francisco State (4-0). It’s the first time in UHH softball history that the Vuls have gone 3-0 on the first day.
The Vulcans then defeated UC San Diego 4-3 on Saturday to sport a perfect 4-0 record and were a game away from advancing to the Gold Bracket playoffs. But Cal State Dominguez Hills fought past UHH 5-2 later Saturday to end the Vuls’ dream of a gold medal.
UHH junior Vanessa Salinas (17-5) held UC San Diego (22-16) to five hits and three runs over 5 1/3 innings before sophomore Ashley Nelson pitched the final 1 2/3 scoreless innings to earn a save.
Salinas, a right-hander from Madera, Calif., struck out one and walked two while picking up the victory. Nelson, a southpaw from San Diego, Calif., didn’t allow a hit or run in her quick stint to go along with a strikeout.
UC San Diego starter Michelle Escamilla (2-8) went 1 2/3 innings and took the loss. She gave up three hits and three runs as the Vulcans plated a run in the top of the first inning and two in the second.
Sophomore Emily Greene was the lone UHH batter to pair hits, going 2 for 4. Juniors Kristine Victa and Rebecca Lee each had a double while Lee, Colleen Aubrey, Salinas and Brittany Huff had one RBI apiece.
Nicole Spangler led UC San Diego with two hits, including a double.
Later in the day, starter Stephanie Jimenez (12-7) fired a two-hitter to lead Cal State Dominguez Hills (21-18) to a 5-2 victory over the Vulcans. She allowed two hits and two runs while earning the win. She struck out five and walked only one batter.
Ashley Nelson (11-9) started for the Vulcans and hurled 2 1/3 innings. She gave up five hits and three runs while taking the loss. Freshman Hannah Peterson took over in the third inning and finished. Peterson allowed six hits and two runs.
Catherine Brown had three hits to lead Cal State Dominguez Hills’ 11-hit attack. Christina Chavez (2 RBIs) and Veronica Vazquez each added two hits.
Brittany Wilson and Arren Nunez each had a double for UHH’s only hits, and each drove in a run.
UHH 120 100 0 — 4 9 0
UCSD 000 012 0 — 3 5 0
CSDH 012 020 0 — 5 11 1
UHH 000 000 2 — 2 2 2