By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
Brittany Huff and Kristina Victa each drove in two runs to spark the University of Hawaii at Hilo to a 5-0 win over Dixie State College in the first game of a Pacific West Conference softball doubleheader Thursday at Vulcans Field.
In the second game, the Red Storm rallied to edge the Vulcans 2-1 in eight innings.
Huff, a 5-foot-4 freshman second baseman from Las Vegas, drilled a run-scoring single in the bottom of the second inning to give the Vulcans (15-12, 6-3) a 1-0 lead, then added an RBI single in a four-run fourth inning.
Victa, a 5-4 junior center fielder from Laguna Hills, Calif., clubbed a two-run double in the fourth as UHH stretched its lead to 5-0.
Huff and junior Rebecca Lee each had two hits to lead the Vulcans’ nine-hit attack. Lee, a shortstop, also had an RBI.
Junior ace Vanessa Salinas (9-4) went the distance to record the shutout. She scattered five hits while keeping the Red Storm (12-7, 3-3) of St. George, Utah, off-balance and the Vulcans played error-less softball behind her. The 5-4 right-hander from Madera, Calif., didn’t walk or strike out a batter but produced “a lot of popups and fly balls,” according to UHH head coach Jaime Wallin.
Salinas outdueled Red Storm starter Mattie Snow (5-4) and reliever Michelle Duncan for the win. Snow pitched three innings, allowing six hits and five runs. She was tagged with the loss. Duncan hurled three scoreless innings. She gave up three hits and struck out three.
“Vanessa pitched great in the first game,” Wallin said. “She was very economical with her pitch count, in the low 70s for the seven innings. She really kept Dixie State off-balance and we had some outstanding defensive plays behind her, especially outfielder Arren Nunez.
“Dixie State is the best offensive team in the conference right now, but Vanessa pitched well enough to win two games today. We just didn’t come up with the clutch hit when we needed it in the second game. We left eight men on the bases.”
Wallin said the Vulcans took advantage of their scoring opportunities in Game 1.
“We hit the ball well, especially freshman Brittany Huff,” Wallin said. “I’m proud of the way she’s worked and stepped up to the college-level pitching. She’s gaining confidence and really hit the ball well today in both games.”
Third baseman Sheila Gelter led Dixie State with two hits, including a double, in the opener.
In Game 2, Gelter singled in Courtney Sherwin with the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth inning and the Red Storm held on to beat the Vulcans. Sherwin doubled to ignite the rally.
Dixie State’s Kate Coffey (2-1) outdueled Salinas in the extra-inning affair. Coffey went the distance, striking out one and walking one while picking up the win. Salinas (9-5) also pitched all eight innings and suffered the loss. She struck out one and didn’t walk a batter.
“Coffey did a nice job for them,” Wallin said.
Sherwin and Courtney Hine each had two hits to lead the Red Storm’s eight-hit attack. Gelter and Maria Reiter each drove in a run. Lee and Asha Prithviraj had two hits apiece for the Vulcans, who had eight hits off Coffey. Third baseman Emily Greene doubled in UHH’s lone run in the first inning.
“Vanessa pitched masterful in 15 innings today and gave us a chance to win two games,” Wallin said. “She was very economical with her pitches in the first game. That’s why I decided to start her in Game 2, to go with the hot pitcher since she held a dangerous Dixie State team to only five hits and was pitching extremely well.
“We had some opportunities, but we just couldn’t come through with the clutch hit in the second game.”
Wallin said she had a “gut feeling” that the hard-throwing Salinas could contain the Red Storm in Game 2.
“Vanessa did her job,” Wallin said. “But I’ve still got a lot of confidence in our other pitchers. It was just a case of going with the hot hand.”
The Vulcans host Brigham Young University-Hawaii in a noon PacWest doubleheader on Saturday at UHH.
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