College softball: Vulcans’ Cy Fernandez has game to back up the name

UH-Hilo photo UH-Hilo senior right-hander Cyanne Fernandez is 7-0 this season with a 2.33 ERA for the Vulcans.

Everyone has been late to an appointment, and when doing so, everyone should be as lucky as to be greeted by Cyanne Fernandez.

She’s left alone for 10 to 15 minutes Thursday while waiting for a tardy reporter in an office at the UH-Hilo athletic complex, but Fernandez not only understands, she’s cheerful and warm.

That would be her nongame face.

“On the mound, I feel a lot different,” she said. “I don’t talk to anybody. If there is a good play, I acknowledge it, but it’s not a thing where I shout at people, I’m just in the game. I’ll smile when I turn around and look at teammates, but when I’m pitching, not really.”

Fernandez, the Vulcans senior right-handed ace, prefers to go by Cy, so let’s get the obvious question out of the way.

Yes, she knows all about Cy Young, who won 511 major league games and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937, nearly 60 years before Fernandez was born in Honolulu.

“My dad (Gordon) is a big baseball fan, so I always knew of him,” she said. “He would say ‘it would be cool if you were that good in softball.’

“I watched YouTube videos of him. It’s kind of cool to be compared to that on the softball field, though I’m nowhere near those stats.”

No, but her 7-0 record — only one other Pacific West Conference pitcher has a spotless mark through as many decisions — and 2.33 ERA are near perfect for a Vulcans softball team set to, finally, hit the meat of its schedule

In stark contrast to a harmful 2017 schedule, coach Callen Perreira intricately set up the slate this season so that UHH (9-4) would play each week, but then the rain came, washing way home openers against Hawaii Pacific last weekend.

“Last year we had a three-week break in the schedule that really killed us,” Perreira said. “I had this schedule all set up, but no use in crying over spilled milk.”

Besides, Fernandez said the ordeal of last season makes a two-week break seem like a gimme.

The Vulcans will take refuge Saturday in Kailua-Kona, moving their doubleheader against to PacWest newcomer Biola to Kealakehe High for a 1 p.m. start.

“We know nothing (about them) since they are new,” Fernandez said. “We’ve been making due with gym practices, but we were able to go to Kailua-Kona (last Sunday), so that was really helpful.”

Biola (17-3, 6-0 PacWest) comes in hot after sweeping Hawaii Pacific on Thursday on the heels of a four-game sweep at Chaminade.

Perreira came into the season trusting in four pitchers, and the 5-foot-4 Fernandez has more a less picked up where she left off last season, when she was working her way back from a knee surgery.

“I do my job in the first game,” Fernandez said. “In the second game, if I have to throw, I’ll throw. But we have a staff, and a pitching staff is really important to the team.”

After pitching mainly in relief as a sophomore transfer from Texas A&M University-Commerce, the Moanalua graduate went 8-3 with a 1.67 ERA as a junior, yielding 67 hits in 88 innings. Beyond the work she put in with coach Fred Entilla and company in the fall, the biggest difference for Fernandez this season is the improved run support she’s been given by the home run-happy Vulcans, who have already swatted four grand slams.

“You don’t get four grand slams in years,” Perreira said, “let alone 13 games.”

Much more than just Bailey Gaspar at the plate, the Vulcans, to Perreira’s surprise and Fernandez’s glee, have outhomered the opposition 18-8, outscoring them 98-54.

“Oh, I’m so happy about it,” said Fernandez, who endured a stretch last season where she allowed only one run in 22 innings but sustained two losses.

“It’s so great, it’s so exciting,” she said. “I’ll do my pitching and all of a sudden it’s hits, hits, hits, home runs and grand slams.”

One key to her success has been her ability to mix pitches while maintaining control. She’s walked just eight batters in 45 innings, allowing 41 hits with 33 strikeouts.

Another key, Perreira said, has been an improved defense spearheaded by freshman Kiarra Lincoln, a Kamehameha graduate who’s filled in at second base and shortstop and has yet to make an error in 58 attempts.

“She’s has made outstanding plays that would have been base hits,” Perreira said. “She makes it look routine, and there is never a bad bounce for her because she has is up on the ball right away.”

Lincoln (.293, one home run, five RBIs) and Waiakea graduate Skylar Thomas (.259, two HRs, 13 RBIs) are each responsible for a grand slam.

Gaspar and junior transfer Isabelle Mejia lead the team with five home runs apiece.

“My first year, there were not many Hawaii girls, and it was kind of sad,” Fernandez said. “I love that local girls want to come and play. I’m really glad the Big Island girls get the exposure.”

Fernandez has come on to get one win in relief so far, but Perreira would like to see the Vuls develop more pitching depth between Leah Gonzalez (1-2, 5.87), Mejia (1-1, 7.30) and Billi Derleth (0-1, 1.97).

“They’re certainly capable, but a lot of it is between the ears,” Perreira said.

“Cyanne, if she dominates a team, we’ll think about starting her again. A lot of it depends on the schedule,” he said. “She knows how to handle the good and he bad.”

That longer than needed wait Thursday not withstanding, the positives have far outweighed the negatives for Fernandez at UH-Hilo.

“I never expected to transfer, but it’s been great to grow with the team for three years,” she said. “I’m just happy how we overcame a lot of stuff and to see how everyone has improved.

“I still feel we’re the underdog to some people, but even when the going gets tough we just need a little spark and we’re a whole new team. Even when we’re down, we’re not down in the dugout.”