HENDERSON, Nev.—The University of Hawai`i softball team (6-3, 0-0 Big West) overcame a 10-run deficit in the fifth inning with an epic comeback to defeat Portland State, 13-12. Relief pitcher Loie Kesterson earned her second win of the season while UH battled back via the long ball with home runs from Leisha Li`ili`i, Jazmine Zamora, and a grand slam off the bat of Alyssa Villalpando that tied the game in the sixth inning.
The Vikings got off to a fast start, posting four runs in the top of the first inning. Three runs came off of a home run shot by Aubrey Nitschelm. But the ‘Bows would get one run back in the bottom of the first. UH loaded the bases with no outs. Li`ili`i got her first RBI of the day drawing a walk that scored Lindsey Willmon. But Portland State then buckled down getting a pair of infield pop ups and a ground out to end the Hawai`i threat.
The ‘Bows threatened to score again in the third, as they loaded the bases with one out on back-to-back singles by Keiki Carlos and Li`ili`i and a walk to Kristina Akiona. But PSU escaped with a pop up and a ground out to thwart UH’s rally.
The score remained 4-1 until the fifth, when the Vikings erupted for seven runs which was fueled by three home runs by Candice Orozco, Shae Nelson and Crysta Conn.
Down by 10 going to the bottom of the fifth, Hawai`i kept the game alive with a two run home run by Li`ili`i and then Zamora launched her first homer of the year, a three-run bomb that closed the gap to 11-6.
Portland State added one run in the top of the sixth on a solo home run by Alicia Fine to extend their lead to 12-6.
But the ‘Bows would come all the way back to knot the game at 12-12 in the bottom of the frame. Ula Reis-Moniz drew a walk to start the rally and Carlos kept things going with a double to left to put both runners in scoring position. Li`ili`i was hit by a pitch and then Nakao was also hit by a pitch to force Warter, who re-entered the game for Reis-Moniz, across the plate. After a pop up to short, Zamora hit a grounder to third, but an error on the play allowed Carlos to score UH’s second run of the inning. Then Villalpando came through with the clutch grand slam that tied the game at 12-12. It was Villalpando’s second home of the season and the tournament and her first career grand slam.
UH’s defense retired the Vikings in order in the top of the seventh and then the ‘Bows’ offense went to work. After a fly out to center, Carlos racked up her career-high fifth hit of the game—a single to left. After another fly out to center, Nakao drew a walk to keep the inning going and Kliebenstein followed with the walk off single that drove in Carlos for the win.
In the game, Carlos tied four other Rainbow Wahine for the UH single game record with five hits, as she went a perfect 5-for-5 against the Vikings. Carlos had a double and five singles and scored three runs–including the game winner. Li`ili`i was 2-for-3 at the plate with a home run. three RBI and two runs scored. Kliebenstein was 2-for-5 with a double, a run scored and the game winning RBI. Zamora went 1-for-3 off the bench with a three run home run and two runs scored while Villalpando hit the game-tying grand slam and was 1-for-4 on the day.
Heather Morales started the game, throwing the first 4.1 innings, allowing six runs on five hits with three walks and four strike outs. Kesterson evened her record at 2-2, also giving up six runs on six hits with a walk and a strike out.
PSU fired three pitchers at the Rainbow Wahine. Raya Johnson threw the first 4.1 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits with four walks and a strike out. Karyn Wright lasted two outs, giving up four runs on two hits with a walk. Meagan Hendrix suffered the loss, dropping her record to 2-2, allowing four runs oon three hits with a walk and a strike out.
Hawai`I concludes play in the Easton Desert Classic on Sunday, Feb. 16 with two games. UH will face Nevada at 11:15 am and then Utah at 1:30 pm. Both games will be played at the Stephanie Lynn Craig Softball Complex.
*Courtesy of Hawai’i Athletics*