UHH softball: Waiting game for Selection Sunday

Hawaii Tribune-Herald

The UH-Hilo softball team didn’t earn the PacWest automatic qualifier to the West Regional. Concordia, No. 1 in the West Region poll, did.

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UHH and host Dominican each went 1-3 in the PacWest conference AQ pod series at the Penguins field in San Rafael, Calif., where the two-day tourney finished on Thursday.

The Vulcans lost to Concordia’s No. 3 pitcher Cortney Koelmans 4-3 but beat the Penguins 4-0, behind Valerie Alvarado’s five-hitter.

It was a strategic move to save ace Alvarado for the Penguins, who were knocked out of NCAA consideration with the loss.

“We decided to save Val for Dominican,” UHH coach Callen Perreira said. “They’re right behind us in the poll. If they beat us again, things could have flip-flopped. But they finished under .500 and don’t qualify.

“We didn’t play a team of Concordia’s caliber all year. We lost two one-run games, and we made a good showing.”

There’s still a chance for the Vulcans (17-11) to make the Division II West Regional for the first time since 2013 when Jaime Wallin was the coach.

UHH was ranked fifth in this week’s West Region poll. Six teams will play in the West Regional, May 19-21 to be hosted by the Eagles.

The Vulcans now await Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show to see if get picked as an at-large team.

However, history doesn’t favor the Vuls, who won 31 games in 2015, ’16, ’18, and ’19 and weren’t selected.

“We’ve been a pretty solid five all year from the beginning,” Perreira said. “I was on the selection committee, and my term expired last year. The committee puts in a recommendation, and the worst thing that could happen is the NCAA overrules it. That would be the worst case.”

Perreira doesn’t need to be reminded about UHH’s at-large bid selection history. He’s got enough painful reminders, but he pointed to the facts as a silver lining.

“Central Washington is right behind us (No. 6) but they haven’t played. Dominican was right there are No. 7 but we knocked them out. But who knows? We had two quality losses to Concordia. Those were quality losses if that makes sense. It should bring our RPI and strength of schedule up.”

In the first game, UHH started Sara Bhatt, who pitched 5 2/3 innings, gave up for runs, and took the loss. She didn’t help herself with seven hits allowed and six walks.

Nia Trinidad pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

The Eagles started their No. 3 pitcher. Koelmans wasn’t spectacular but didn’t hurt herself either. She allowed one run in 4 1/3 innings and gave up seven hits and only one walk.

Kiarra Lincoln homered in the fifth to cut Concordia’s lead to 2-1.

In the sixth, Angel Prewitt had an RBI single, and Lincoln had an RBI single. But Erika Morris recorded got a strikeout and ground with two on to end the threat.

Concordia saved No. 2 pitcher Kelsea Sweeeny for the game against Dominican. She fired a four-hitter in a 2-0 win.

Senior All-American Callie Nunes 11-3 with a 1.60 ERA in 100 2/3 innings. The 5-foot-5 right-hander pitched 190 innings as a freshman and 219 innings as a sophomore.

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In UHH’s 4-0 second game, the Vulcans erupted for four runs in the top of the seventh inning. Nikkie Zielinski hit a solo homer, Prewitt cranked a two-run triple, and Lincoln had an RBI sacrifice fly.

Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show will begin at 4 p.m. Hawaii time at ncaa.org.

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