By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
The University of Hawaii at Hilo swept a doubleheader from Hawaii Pacific University 7-2 and 3-0 on Saturday to claim a share of the Pacific West Conference softball title.
The regular season-ending twinbill was played at the Vulcans Field. The first game was delayed by rain before the teams were able to complete the doubleheader.
The high-flying Vulcans shared the PacWest crown with Dixie State, which earlier in the day beat Grand Canyon 8-7 and 8-0 to finish off its regular season. However, UHH earned the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division II West Regional by winning the tiebreaker over the Red Storm. Both teams end PacWest play with 25-7 records.
“It’s very exciting, the ladies came through,” UHH coach Jaime Wallin said. “Now, we’ll pack our bags and fly out on Tuesday (for regional play).”
The Vulcans not only celebrated their first conference title under Wallin, but they also celebrated Senior Day right after the memorable sweep.
It’s the first softball title for UHH since the 2005-06 team won the PacWest crown under then coach Callen Perreira.
In the title-clinching Game 2 victory, sophomore Ashley Nelson pitched a shutout to lead UHH (39-17 overall) past the Sea Warriors (30-19, 19-13 PacWest).
“Ashley did a great job,” said Wallin, just before sprinting back to the field to enjoy the Senior Day ceremony with her two seniors, Brittany Spencer and Asha Prithviraj.
Nelson, a southpaw from San Diego, Calif., went the six-inning distance to get the win. Nelson (14-10) allowed six hits while striking out four and walking one. HPU starter Melissa Kirby (11-10) was saddled with the loss. She gave up eight hits and the three runs.
Freshman Brandi Wilson had two hits and two RBIs, including a two-run double in the bottom of the first inning that provided Nelson with all the runs she would need. Sophomore Colleen Aubrey also had two hits while sophomore Emily Greene drove in the final run with a sacrifice fly in the third inning.
Tesoro was the lone Sea Warrior to pair hits. She also had a double.
In Game 1, sophomore Melanie Morelos hit a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning when the Vulcans scored seven runs to grab a 7-2 advantage.
Junior Rebecca Lee led UHH with three hits and had a run batted in. Junior Kristina Victa added two hits in the eight-hit attack. Chante Tesoro had three hits for the Sea Warriors and Dorian Acierto added two, including a two-run double in the first inning off UHH starter Hannah Peterson.
But Peterson (6-1) settled down and held HPU scoreless the rest of the way. The freshman from Alta Loma, Calif., struck out two and walked four while earning the win. Sea Warriors hurler Alysia Maddison (7-4) took the loss. She gave up six runs on six hits in less than an inning of work.
At Vulcans field
HPU 200 000 0 — 2 7 0
UHH 700 000 x — 7 8 1
HPU 000 000 — 0 6 0
UHH 201 000 — 3 8 0