SEATTLE, Wash.—The No. 20/23 University of Hawai`i softball team (45-12, 20-4 Big West) staved off elimination and advanced to the Regional Championship game with a 3-0 win over Minnesota on Saturday night. Hawai`i’s Kaia Parnaby earned her 39th with her 39th complete game of the season. Offensively, Kayla Wartner came through with a two-run triple and Leisha Li`ili`i launched a solo home run to boost the ‘Bows past the Golden Gophers at the Husky Softball Stadium.
Both Parnaby and Minnesota’s starter Sara Moulton came into tonight’s contest throwing their team’s first two games of the Regional—including one for each earlier in the day. For Moulton, she fired a complete-game shutout over Portland State right before facing Hawai`i for the second time. Moulton threw a no-hitter through the first six-and-two-thirds innings before a Viking was able to break up the no-no with a hit that sailed into leftfield just above a leaping shortstop.
Parnaby tossed her second shutout over the Gophers in as many days. She scattered three hits with no walks and four strike outs. Her four K’s, brought her single season total to 341. Parnaby retired the last 12 batters in a row.
In the bottom of the second, the Golden Gophers threatened to score with a two-out rally. UH got two quick outs to start the frame on a pop-out to first and a ground out to second. But then, Paige Palkovich got Minnesota’s first hit through the right-side of the infield. And the next batter Alex Davis was beaned, putting runners at first and second. The two runners then did a double steal to put both runners into scoring position and pressure on UH, but Parnaby got the final out on a foul pop-up to Li`ili`i at first.
The ‘Bows responded in the top of third to take a 2-0 lead. Alyssa Villalpando got things started with a single that just ticked off the glove of Minnesota’s leaping shortstop into leftfield. Brynne Buchanan then pushed Villalpando to second with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt that died right in front of the plate. Kelly Majam was then plunked to put runners at first and second. Wartner then drilled a triple over the centerfielder to the purple wall to drive in both pinch runner Kiani Wong and Majam to give UH the lead. It was Wartner’s fourth triple of the year and it was her first hit in the Regionals.
In the fourth inning, Li`ili`i launched her 13th home run of the season, with a solo blast over the “College World Series” sign on the rightfield wall to give UH a 3-0 lead. It was Li`ili`i’s first hit of the Regional as well. It marked her 23rd homer of her young career.
Jessica Iwata led off the top of the sixth with a double to the right-centerfield gap, but was left stranded after a ground out and two strike outs.
Hawai`i will now face No. 11/9 Washington again on Sunday afternoon at 10:00 a.m HST. If Hawai`i wins the first game, both teams will square off in a winner-take all second game at 12:30 p.m.
*Courtesy of Hawai’i Athletics*