By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
It’s not often that a pitcher tosses a perfect game but for University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Vanessa Salinas, she’s just adding to her collection.
On Tuesday, the hard-throwing righthanded junior from Madera, Calif. fired a perfect game as the Vulcans blanked Cal State East Bay 6-0 in an NCAA Division II women’s softball game in Hayward, Calif. She faced and retired 21 straight batters in her pitching gem, the second perfect game she’s thrown — the first came in high school.
In the second game of a doubleheader, UHH shutout CSEB 11-0 behind the pitching of sophomore Ashley Nelson and freshman Hannah Peterson and a balanced hitting attack.
But it was Salinas’ perfect day that highlighted the Vulcans’ sweep.
“Vanessa was fantastic,” Vulcans head coach Jaime Wallin said. “She had great accuracy and went right after the hitters. I think only one batter drove the ball, but everything else was a pop-up, fly ball or groundout.”
The 5-foot-4 Salinas struck out 11 in earning her fourth win against two losses this season for UHH (7-5).
Wallin also credited the Vulcans’ defense for helping protect the Salinas gem.
“We played well defensively and didn’t make a big deal of the perfect game at that time, and neither did Vanessa,” the UHH coach said. “Overall, it was a good team effort by everybody. But it’s still exciting to see someone pitch a perfect game.
“For me, I think it’s the first time I’ve been involved in one in all my years as a coach.”
Lead-off hitter Kristina Victa went 3 for 4 and drove in three runs while sophomore slugger Emily Greene hit a two-run homer to lead the Vulcans’ attack in Game 1.
UHH had nine hits off CSEB starter Lauren Zweigle, who went the distance and took the loss. Zweigle (1-2) walked two and struck out nine in a blue-collar effort.
In Game 2, Nelson, a crafty 5-7 southpaw from San Diego, Calif., started and hurled four shutout innings to get the win over CSEB (2-4). She allowed three hits and a walk while striking out three.
Peterson, a 5-6 righthander from Alta Loma, Calif., pitched the final inning. She didn’t allow a hit or walk and struck out one as she closed the door on the victory.
And while Nelson and Peterson were taking care of business on the mound, UHH’s offense banged out 10 hits with Victa, Arren Nunez and Colleen Aubrey each having two to lead the charge.
Junior Rebecca Lee, Nunez and designated hitter Salinas each drove in two runs.
Nikki Fonteneaux (2-2) started for the hosts and pitched three innings. She gave up eight hits and 10 runs and took the loss. Zweigle hurled the final two innings, allowing two hits and a run.
“From top to bottom, this was our most balanced production all season,” Wallin said. “It was a good day for us. We took advantage of our speed and power, and we got outstanding pitching. It’s nice to see. I thought we were ready to bust out and it came at the right time for us.”
The Vulcans open Pacific West Conference play against Academy of Art University this weekend. Doubleheaders are scheduled at noon Friday and Saturday on the Urban Knights’ home diamond in San Francisco.
“We’ve got four big games this weekend against Academy of Art,” Wallin said. “I think after today, we’ll go into those games with a little more confidence.”
Following this weekend’s games, the Vulcans return home and host the UH-Hilo Round Robin Tournament on Feb. 21-23. UHH will be joined in the three-team field by Missouri Western State and Western Oregon.
At Hayward, Calif.
UHH 200 202 0 — 6 9 0
CSEB 000 000 0 — 0 0 0
UHH 316 10 — 11 10 0
CSEB 000 00 — 0 3 2