The weather has cooperated, so UH-Hilo’s softball team can forgo the trip to Kailua-Kona on Saturday and stay home to focus on the dual tasks at hand.
The timing is perfect for Maria Steadmon, a Southern California native who has one last chance to perform in a place that’s become her second home with a postseason push on the line.
A playoff atmosphere will grip the Vulcans’ noon doubleheader against Chaminade first and foremost, but senior day sentiments also will be in the air, and no more so than for Steadmon. She has big plans ahead, on and off the field, saying, “I don’t think I could have been the same student or person without softball.”
The Vulcans (28-15, 21-9 Pacific West Conference) had a mixed reaction Wednesday with the news that they were ranked ninth in the West Region, one spot from where they need to be after the next two rankings to reach the postseason.
“Like I told the girls, there are 20 teams not mentioned,” coach Callen Perreira said. “We’re in the top 10, that’s good to begin with, but we’re trying to get in the top eight. We pretty much need to win out as much as we can.”
Of UHH’s six remaining games, four are against the Silverswords (11-33, 8-24), who are still trying to dig out from the depths of a recent 17-game losing streak that left them in the bottom third of the PacWest.
“They compete,” Perreira said. “We need to show up, otherwise … they’ll beat you.”
Winners of six of seven, Steadmon said the team was a “little bummed” not to be in the top eight, yet remained optimistic.
“We think that if we take care of ourselves and if we keep working hard and try to win the rest of our games, we have a really good chance,” she said.
With parents Marjorie and John Steadmon of Huntington Beach, Calif., watching from the stands, she’ll suit up for her final home game along with three others: Isabelle Mejia, Kayla Requelman and Danielle Antolin.
“My dad saw us play a little bit last year,” Steadmon said, “but I feel like it’s different now because both my parents are here and this is the last time they are going to see me.”
Better yet, they’ll see her on the Vuls campus field.
Because of wet weather in East Hawaii, the Vulcans have played only two more games on campus than at Kealakehe High in West Hawaii. UHH had to shuttle back and forth last week for a four-game series against Academy of Art.
“There is no place like playing on your home field, especially our seniors are really looking forward to playing here,” she said.
Isabelle Mejia – the PacWest player of week for a third time – is arguably the most important Vul, and Requelman, a Honokaa High alum, has more local standing, but Steadmon is the sole four-year contributor. She’s primed to play her 161st and 162nd career games, with 130 starts in the outfield entering Saturday.
“The talent is the best that we’ve had in four years,” she said, “we’re really dynamic. There is a little bit of everything, and we kind of balance each other out. The personality is really fun, and exciting, and it’s really interesting just watching us play.”
Perreira inherited Steadmon when he reclaimed the reins of the program three years ago, and he’s watched her average rise by nearly 100 points. From hitting .215 as a sophomore to .262 in 2018, Steadmon is third on the team this season, batting .314 with two home runs.
“She’s put in the time, she puts in the extra work,” Perreira said, “which reflects on her performance this year.”
When he called Steadmon over for an interview Friday, Perreira called her “Dr. Steadmon.”
A two-time member of the All-PacWest academic team, she’s been accepted into a Ph.D. program in oceanography at UH-Manoa.
Set to graduate in May with a degree in marine science and hoping to advance to regionals and beyond with the Vuls, Steadmon no doubt will be busy.
But UHH may just want to have her write a line or two for its brochure.
“It an oasis, it’s awesome, it’s so fun,” she said of the Hilo experience. “I’ve met so many people, I have a really good relationship with my teammates and professor and just the people in the community. It’s been a great four years.”