By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
University of Hawaii at Hilo coach Jaime Wallin had a point to make to her players ahead of their rematch against Notre Dame de Namur’s Jenna Bassler, so she sent them a text Saturday night. The crux of her note: visualize.
Judging by their bounce-back effort Sunday, the Vulcans got the message.
Sophomore Mariah Wyckoff put down a squeeze bunt to score Kristina Victa in the bottom the seventh inning, giving UHH a 4-3 victory at its damp softball field.
“Mariah’s come a long way in terms of her bat control,” Wallin said. “I felt the best opportunity would be to squeeze. You have to pick and choose when you’re facing a riseball.”
With one out, Wyckoff took the first pitch she saw and laid down a bunt just outside the batter’s box. Victa raced home, eluding the third baseman’s tag.
“An important game, we needed to win that game,” Wallin said. “We did everything possible to win it.”
The elements won out in the second game, which was cancelled by rain, wiping away a 4-0 lead for UHH (10-8, 5-4 Pacific West Conference) in the second inning.
Vulcans ace left-hander Ashley Nelson (6-4) gave up a tying two-run homer to the Argonauts’ Breanna Young, her sixth of the season, in the sixth inning. But other than the hiccup Nelson was solid in going the distance.
Bassler played spoiler Saturday with a four-hitter during five dominant innings to give Notre Dame de Namur (8-10, 2-3) a doubleheader split.
“We laid off the high pitch and did a really good job of adjusting,” said Victa, a senior center fielder who finished 2 for 4, including a double to lead off the seventh. “A lot of people caught on to her first pitch. Her first pitch was typically a strike. And if we missed, we just missed.
“Coach asked everybody to see how they would hit that pitcher. Me personally, that’s exactly what I did.”
The Vulcans, who are at the halfway point of a 12-game homestand ahead of a noon doubleheader next Saturday against Holy Names, dented Bassler (4-3) for seven hits and were patient enough in the rain to coax five walks.
“The rain could have hurt her,” Victa said. “Some speed got taken off the ball, but overall we just saw her better.
“I thought Ashley did great with the rain.”
Nelson struck two and walked two, giving up five hits and three runs, two earned.
Wallin also tweaked her starting lineup against Bassler. Sophomore Brandi Wilson stroked a two-run double in the first inning, freshman catcher Danielle Pulido was 2 for 2 with a walk and freshman designated hitter Kaylie Drew singled and walked twice, scoring a run.
The Argonauts were clearly careful with Rebecca Lee. In nine plate appearances after the senior standout went 3 for 3 in the early game Saturday, Lee drew a walk three times and was hit three times. Playing left field, Lee finished 0 for 2 — her average plummeted to .589 — with two walks.
The Argonauts pitched around Lee in the seventh after Victa doubled to left center. Victa moved to third on Emily Greene’s flyout to right, prompting a meeting in which Wyckoff endorsed Wallin’s idea to bunt.
If she hadn’t?
“I wouldn’t have taken it off, but I would have prayed little bit more,” Wallin said.
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