By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
University of Hawaii at Hilo softball coach Jaime Wallin has seen her team’s pitching hold up this season, but the Vulcans’ ability to hit in the clutch hasn’t always been as consistent.
On Saturday in a Pacific West Conference doubleheader against Cal Baptist University at the Vulcans Field, Wallin watched both phases blend together in a sweep — 6-2 and 7-2 over the Lancers.
“It’s nice to see our pitching hold down the top hitting team in the conference,” the UHH coach said. “They’re also the top home run hitting team. And although we gave up a couple of home runs today, our pitchers did a great job, holding Cal Baptist to just two runs in each game.
“Our pitchers deserve a lot of credit for that. But I’m also happy with our hitting in key situations. In both games, we started slowly, but when we needed a clutch hit or to piece together a rally, we were able to do it. This team has the potential of score runs in bunches. It’s nice to see that maybe our offense is coming around.”
In Game 1, junior right-hander Vanessa Salinas fired a three-hitter to record the win for UHH (16-9, 10-6 PacWest). She allowed two earned runs while striking out five and not walking a batter. One of the Lancers’ three hits was Marshean Agust’s solo homer in the sixth inning.
Jessica Avila started and went the distance for Cal Baptist (17-15, 8-6). She gave up six runs — three earned — on 10 hits while being tagged with the loss. She struck out three and walked one.
Freshman Brittany Huff led the Vulcans’ 10-hit attack with two hits and three runs batted in. Teammates Kristina Victa (1 RBI, 2 runs), Rebecca Lee (1 RBI) and Emily Greene (1 RBI) each added two hits.
In Game 2, sophomore southpaw Ashley Nelson pitched five solid innings, holding the Lancers to two runs while scattering seven hits. She picked up the win while Salinas hurled the final two innings.
Belinda Renne started for Cal Baptist and took the loss. She pitched five innings, allowing seven runs on six hits with four strikeouts.
The Vulcans broke a 1-1 deadlock with six runs in the fifth inning. Sophomores Colleen Aubrey and Greene had the biggest clutch hits in the inning. Aubrey had a three-run double and Greene a two-run homer.
Aubrey led UHH’s six-hit attack with three hits and Greene had two, including her homer to left field.
Sloan McHann (solo homer) and Danae Leiser each had two hits to lead the Lancers.
Wallin was pleased with her team’s pitching and timely hitting, but she felt the defense needs to improve. The Vulcans had an error in the opener and two miscues in Game 2.
“We still have to clean some things up defensively,” she said. “But this team has the potential to be an exceptional defensive team.”
The Vulcans coach also liked how the squad is starting to put together all the pieces on the diamond.
“We’re hoping this sweep will give us some momentum heading into our next series,” she said. “But we realize we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve played some quality teams so far and we know we’ve got to play a lot more quality teams the rest of the way.
“We just want to keep improving and see what happens.”
UHH hosts Azusa Pacific University in a four-game series Friday and Saturday at the Vulcans Field. Doubleheaders are scheduled each day at noon. The Vuls then travel to the Bay Area later this month to start a key road trip with games against Notre Dame de Namur and Holy Names.
“It’s an important trip and will be a good test for us,” Wallin said.
At Vulcans Field
CBU 010 001 0 — 2 3 2
UHH 100 032 x — 6 10 1
CBU 000 101 0 — 2 8 0
UHH 010 060 x — 7 6 2
GCU 1, UHH 0
GCU 1, UHH 0
Grand Canyon University plated a solo run in each game and rode outstanding pitching to sweep a PacWest baseball doubleheader from the Vulcans on Saturday at Wong Stadium.
In Game 1, starter Andrew Naderer (5 1/3 innings, 6 strikeouts) and relievers Cody Repenning and Mark Jarrett combined on a four-hit shutout to life the Antelopes to the 1-0 win. Naderer got the win while UHH starter Jordan Kurokawa (6 innings, 8 hits, 1 run) took the loss.
Designated hitter Garrett Jeffries went 3 for 3 and drove in the winning run to lead GCU (16-8, 8-1 PacWest). No teammate paired hits.
Tyler Nitahara had two hits to lead the Vulcans (5-20-1, 5-14-1), who left seven men on base against the visitors.
The teams close their four-game series with a single nine-inning game starting at 1 p.m. today at Wong.
In Game 2, starter Coley Bruns (5 1/3 innings, 3 hits, 7 strikeouts) and relievers Brandon Bonilla (two-thirds of an inning, no hits) and Mark Jarrett (1 inning, no hits) combined on the three-hit shutout. Bruns got the win.
The Antelopes’ trio outdueled UHH starter Gavin Kinoshita (6 1/3 innings, 2 hits, 1 run, 4 strikeouts) and reliever Sheldon Shishido (2/3 inning, not hits). Kinoshita took the loss.
Grand Canyon scored in the third inning, using a walk, two hit batters, a fielder’s choice and an error to plate the unearned run.
Keenan Kaluau, Zach Hamasaki and Austin Cusack had the Vulcan hits. Seth Frethelm had both of the Antelope hits.
At Wong Stadium
GCU 000 100 0 — 1 9 0
UHH 000 000 0 — 0 4 0
GCU 001 000 0 — 1 2 0
UHH 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
GCU 8, UHH 5
Derek Mendoza had three hits and three RBIs to lead the Antelopes. Michael Pomroy, Garrett Jeffries and Brandon Smith each drove in two runs.
Keenan Nishioka led the Vulcans with three hits while teammates John Abreu, Tyler Nitahara and Brad Fairweather had two hits apiece.
GCU reliever Malcolm Purdy, one of four Antelopes to pitch, got the win. UHH starter Dane Kinoshita took the loss. He was one of three Vulcans to pitch.
GCU 003 202 010 — 8 12 4
UHH 000 320 000 — 5 11 4