By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Kristina Victa hits leadoff, and she doesn’t try to make matters too complex.
“I don’t think, I just play,” the center fielder said.
Rebecca Lee bats second and prefers an aggressive approach.
“Anything over the plate, I’m going to take a hack,” the shortstop said.
As transfers and former Division I softball players, both went through a bit of a feeling-out period with their new University of Hawaii at Hilo teammates. But they got the green light from their coach two weeks ago, and they’ve being going strong ever since.
Victa collected four more hits and scored four more runs Saturday while Lee had three of each, and they fueled a rally in the second game as the Vulcans swept a doubleheader against BYU-Hawaii, winning 8-0 and 5-3 at UHH softball field.
“Me and (Rebecca), once we get it done, we’re good to go,” Victa said of the duo’s ability to create problems at the top of the lineup.
The Vulcans’ other junior transfer with Division I experience, ace right-hander Vanessa Salinas, got what coach Jaime Wallin called a “deserved” day off after pulling double duty Thursday against Dixie State.
Sophomore Ashley Nelson and freshman Hannah Peterson picked up victories for UHH (16-12, 7-3) in her absence. Nelson threw a five-hit shutout in the first game, while Peterson survived a rocky second inning and went the distance in Game 2.
“I feel confident with both of them in the circle,” Wallin said. “They hung tough and did what they needed to do.”
Colleen Aubrey and Brandi Wilson were both 2 for 3 with two RBIs as UHH took the opener via five-inning TKO.
The second game was tighter, but not surprisingly, Victa and Lee were front and center as UHH broke a 3-3 tie in the fourth against the Seasiders (5-15, 2-2).
“Our team depends on us and relies on us to step it up for them,” Lee said. “It’s nice to be depended on.”
Victa singled up the middle with one out, then raced all the way to third when Lee beat out an infield single. With its spark plugs aboard, UHH manufactured two runs. Victa scored on Aubrey’s bunt hit and Lee came home on Emily Greene’s sacrifice fly.
“We’re very fortunate to have a couple players with Division I experience,” Wallin said. “They’ve seen all types of pitching. Nothing really fazes them.”
Not even a heart-to-heart with their coach on Feb. 23. UHH had just lost for the third time in five games at its tournament and was in danger of a lost weekend in Waimea when Wallin pulled the two of them aside.
“I wasn’t shocked,” Lee said. “She had been hinting at it, but she finally said we needed to push this team to be as good as they can be.”
Both players had been patiently waiting for the right time to take over, but Wallin’s words finally put them in motion.
“That opened the floodgates,” Lee said. “That gave us the confidence to play at a higher level. Kristina and I looked at each other and said, “We’re not losing this next game.”
UHH didn’t, and it’s won six of seven since and Lee and Victa are nos. 1-2 on the team in hitting and runs, looking very much like Division I players.
Lee, a younger sister of former Vul Dana Lee , left Mililani High on Oahu in 2010 for East Carolina. Despite plenty of playing time there during two seasons, she decided to transfer back to Hawaii. She chose the Big Island because she had spent her entire life in Oahu.
“I’d rather live with my sister, then my parents,” she said.
Both Lee and Victa say their backgrounds prepared them perfectly to play in Division II.
“I feel like half of the game is mental,” Lee said. “Playing at a higher division is more exhausting mentally, so we feel we deal with a lot of things better. We know what to expect.”
Victa, 5-4 and a graduate of Laguna Hills (Calif.) first played at North Dakota State for a year, then Cypress College (Calif.) junior college.
“I paid a lot more attention to detail in Division I,” she said. “The intensity is up and the experience is one of the best things I’ve had. It helped me at the JC level, and it helped me here.”
Wilson also had a four-hit day, going 2 for 2 in the second game with an RBI double in the first inning. Greene finished with two RBIs.
UHH’s pitchers did not walk a batter all afternoon. Peterson (3-1) allowed five hits, three runs – two earned – with two strikeouts.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign of the day was Nelson’s performance. She improved to 4-6, striking out four batters.
UHH looks to extend its hot stretch when it hosts Grand Canyon in a noon doubleheader Thursday, and Lee feels the team is ready to really gel.
“It’s all right there for us,” Lee said. “It’s our choice how we want to go. People are stepping up for us. Once you play at a high level, everything else doesn’t seem OK. We won today, but it was a little ugly. We can play better.”
Tiffanee Frampton (3-7) pitched four innings and took the loss in the first game, while Gabrielle Hawkins (2-8) went the distance in losing Game 2.
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