By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
It was like clockwork last season for the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Leadoff hitter Kristina Victa would get on base, Rebecca Lee would step to the plate, and coach Jaime Wallin would go through a series of signs. Maybe she’d signal a bunt, or perhaps she’d put on a hit-and-run.
This season when Lee goes to bat, Wallin is much more apt to put her hands in her pockets and watch one of Division II college softball’s most locked-in hitters do her thing.
The senior shortstop collected four more hits Saturday in the Vulcans’ home-opening doubleheader, and Ashley Nelson and Hannah Peterson pitched shutouts as UHH swept BYU-Hawaii, winning 4-0 and 8-0.
“I’m more focused because it’s my last year,” said Lee, who’s been playing softball since she was 4 growing up on Oahu. “I’m graduating and it’s my last go. With everything I’ve learned my whole life, the only time is now.”
Among her three hits in the first game were two run-scoring doubles that scored Victa, who had a pair of multihit games.
With a 4-for-7 day, Lee’s Pacific West Conference-leading average actually dipped a bit to .600. She also leads the league in RBIs (28) and began the afternoon tied for the top spot in home runs (seven).
“Rebecca has been carrying us,” Wallin said, “but teams are going to notice those numbers and we’re going to need people to step up behind her and in front of her.”
Wallin got the contributions she was looking for in the second game as UHH (8-7, 3-3) was slow to get going at the plate but eventually banged out 14 hits.
Emily Greene ( 2 for 4) put the Vulcans ahead in the fourth with a two-run double, sophomore Kaylie Drew finished 3 for 4 with an RBI and Jillian Martinez went 3 for 4, including a two-run single. Martinez, a freshman third baseman, was 2 for 3 in the opener, while catcher Tianalia Fa’asua contributed two hits in the second game.
“Offensively, it was doing what we needed to do,” Wallin said. “I don’t know if this is the same caliber of performance that we had on the road, but it was enough to win both games.
“The competition is going to get tougher, so we need to make adjustments.”
Lee was staring at a rare hitless game before she singled in a run in the sixth as UHH scored three times for the TKO victory. She drew a walk, scored twice and stole two bases.
“The first game, I got better pitches to hit,” she said. “But the second game, they came after me. I didn’t feel like they were throwing around me.
“In our last series at California Baptist, they started to work around me. I think they didn’t care if they walked me.”
Wallin said she has no plans to move Lee from the No. 2 hole in the lineup, saying, “I think that’s where you should put your best hitter.”
The second spot in UHH pitching rotation has been a trouble spot at times this season, but Peterson (3-2) came through with a three-hitter that was her best performance of the season. The sophomore right-hander began the game with a 7.61 ERA, but she was rarely in trouble against the Seasiders (0-6, 0-4). Locating all of her pitches, Peterson allowed a walk with three strikeouts.
“Ashley did really good, and I’ve just got to back her up,” Peterson said. “I changed speeds, changed planes; rises, drops, just changed it up.
“On my dropballs outside, I got a lot of good calls on that. They kept swinging.”
Earlier, Nelson (4-4) struck out 10 batters in a four-hitter and walked only one.
Both of UHH’s pitchers were backed by error-free defenses.
“They complement each other really well,” Wallin said. “One throws right, the other left. One throws hard, the other soft. One’s up, one’s down.
“Our defense was as important as the two shutouts.”
Gabby Hawkins (0-3) and Keagan Hanny (0-1) took the losses for BYU-Hawaii.
BYU-Hawaii 000 000 0 —0 4 0
UHH 200 020 x —4 10 0
BYU-Hawaii 000 000 — 0 3 0
UHH 002 033 — 8 14 0