HONOLULU—The University of Hawai`i softball team (40-11, 17-4 Big West) swept Saturday’s doubleheader over UC Santa Barbara to capture at the very least a share of the Big West title with three games to play. The Rainbow Wahine launched five home runs in the first game to out-slug the Gauchos 11-9 then overwhelmed UCSB, 8-0 in five innings with senior Jessica Iwata drilling a walk-off solo home run to end the mercy rule game. Senior Kaia Parnaby earned a complete game win in the opener which ties her for the Big West single-season record with 35 victories, while freshman Loie Kesterson earned her first complete-game shut out in the series finale. Hawai`i’s flexed its offensive power whacking nine home runs in Saturday’s two games.
Hawai`i remains in first place as the Big West season comes down the homestretch. UH controls its own destiny as it takes their 17-4 conference record into Pacific next week. Long Beach State swept UC Davis on Saturday and remains in second with a 16-7 record with one game left in their conference season. But the 49ers have the tie-breaker over UH after winning two out of three games in Honolulu last week. Pacific fell behind after getting swept at Cal State Fullerton this week falling to 12-9 in the Big West. Hawai`i needs to win one game next week at Pacific or a Long Beach State loss on Sunday to claim the conference title out-right. This is UH’s first season back in the Big West after spending the last 16 years in the WAC. It is their second Big West crown in history after being co-champions in 1994. It is Hawai`i’s sixth regular season conference title overall and it marks the first time the ‘Bows have won back-to-back conference titles in school history. Last season UH captured the WAC championship with a 17-3 record. The senior class that was honored on Saturday has won three conference titles in their four years at UH.
Hawai`i 11, UC Santa Barbara 9
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Parnaby raised her record to 35-5 on the season and 14-2 in conference games. She continues to lead the nation in wins and at the beginning of the week was ranked No. 3 in strike outs. Currently, she has 317 this season and is seven strike out away from tying former UH All-American and fellow Aussie southpaw Brooke Wilkins’ school and conference record of 324 set in 1994.
The Gauchos started where they left off after Friday’s game, posting three runs all on two outs in the top of the first. Shelby Wisdom started the 2-out rally with a double to the right-centerfield gap and was followed by Keilani Jennings who cranked a two-run home run. Kathryn Pilpil followed with another double to right-center and scored on a single by Jessica Tetzlaff.
Hawai`i leap-frogged UCSB in the bottom of the third, scoring four runs to take a 4-3 lead. Jazmine Zamora led the inning off by beating out an infield single to short. Kaile Nakao followed with a walk and Sharla Kliebenstein launched her 11th home run of the season over the leftfield fence. It marked the junior’s 32nd career homer. Later, Kelly Majam roped a solo home run over the centerfield fence. It was her team-leading 18th of the season and she moved into No. 9 all-time in NCAA history by herself with her 72nd homer of her career.
UCSB scored three runs in the top of the third to overtake UH, 6-4. The Gauchos got an RBI single by Pilpil to score pinch-runner McKenzie Kane. Later, with runners at first and second, Jessica Tetzlaff hit a single to left. On the play, Jennings over-ran third and got into a rundown in which Parnaby’s throw ricocheted off of Jennings’ back and trickled away from the plate allowing two runs to score.
UH however answered right back in the bottom of the third. Leisha Li`ili`i led off with a single to right-centerfield. Zamora followed by lifting her fourth home run of the season over the left-centerfield fence to tie the score at 6-6.
Hawai`i then retook the lead in the bottom of the fourth on a solo home run by Kayla Wartner to centerfield. It was Wartner’s 10th of the season and 16th of her career.
The ‘Bows added three runs in the bottom of the fifth to give them a 10-6 lead. Zamora started the inning with a single. Two outs later, pinch-hitter Tara Anguiano drew a four-pitch walk to put runners at first and second for Majam who came through with a double to score Zamora. Wartner followed with another double to drive in both Anguiano and Majam.
The Gauchos were not done yet, with Jennings hitting her second home run of the day—a three-run homer to right-center to close to within one run of UH, 10-9 in the top of the sixth.
But UH added an insurance run to go up 11-9 in the bottom of the sixth on a solo homer by Jessica Iwata. It was Iwata’s seventh of the season and 54th of her career.
Zamora led UH at the plate, going 4-for-4 with three runs scored, two RBI and a home run. Wartner also was perfect at the plate, hitting 3-for-3 with three RBI and a walk.
UCSB’s Shelby Wisdom suffered the loss, giving up 10 runs on 11 hits with four walks and one strike out in 4.2 innings of work. Alex Pingree lasted two-thirds of an inning, allowing one run on three hits and Andriana Collins also threw two-thirds of an inning to close the game with one walk on her stat line.
Hawai`i 8, UC Santa Barbara 0 (5 innings)
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After surviving the slugfest in the opener, the Rainbow Wahine came out firing on all cylinders in the series finale, overpowering the Gauchos, 8-0 in five innings. The ‘Bows pummeled the UCSB pitching for four more home runs in the game while rookie Kesterson earned the win in the circle with a strong performance improving to 3-4 on the season spacing four hits in her first career shut-out. She threw five innings, with two walks and four strike outs.
UH’s offense was extremely efficient in the game, leaving no runners on base and scoring all eight runs off homers. The Gauchos’ pitchers gave up just five hits in the game, but four of them were home runs by the Rainbow Wahine.
UH was retired in order in the first inning, but posted three runs in the second. Li`ili`i started the rally with a walk and Zamora followed with a grounder to short. On the play, the shortstop tried to get Li`ili`i out at second, but her throw sailed into right-centerfield allowing Li`ili`i to hustle to third. After a strike out, Kliebenstein crushed a three-run home run to left to give UH an early 3-0 lead. It was Kliebenstein’s 12th home run of the season and 33rd of her career.
Hawai`i kept things rolling in the third, adding four more runs on the score board. Wartner hit her second home run of the day to start UH off with one out. Keiki Carlos then hit a single to left and Iwata was plunked to put runners at first and second. After a fly out to right, Zamora lifted her second home run of the day over the left-centerfield fence. The three-run bomb was Zamora’s fifth of the season and career and gave UH a 7-0 lead after three innings.
Iwata then ended the game in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out solo shot high over the centerfield fence. It was her second of the day as well and brought her season total to eight and career mark to 55. It also was the third time in Iwata’s career that she was clutch hitting a walk-off on Senior Day. As a freshman, she hit a solo home run with two outs to defeat Western Athletic Conference rival Fresno State, 5-4. Then as a sophomore, she drove in the winning run against New Mexico State with a two-out single that drove in pinch-runner Zamora for a 5-4 win.
The Gauchos’ Collins took the loss, dropping her record to 5-4. She gave up four runs on two hits with a walk and a strike out in two-and-a-third innings in the circle. Wisdom closed the game, throwing the final two-and-a-third innings. She gave up four runs on three hits with two walks and a strike out.
“Senior Day” celebrated the careers of five Rainbow Wahine seniors—Tara Anguiano, Brynne Buchanan, Jessica Iwata, Kaia Parnaby and Kelly Majam. The ‘Bows have won their final home game 10-straight seasons.
Hawai`i closes the 2013 season in Stockton, Calif. next week when they face the Pacific Tigers. The two teams square off in a doubleheader starting at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, May 10 and conclude the regular season with a single game on Saturday at 12:00 pm.