Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022|
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Enough of the open road.
UH-Hilo’s softball team returns home for the final eight games of Aisha Sueda’s debut season as coach, needing six victories to conclude a winning season.
A top-half finish in the PacWest Conference is the loftiest goal the Vulcans can aspire to after enduring a season-defining, two-week-plus, four-stop California tour that had its bumps. It ended with familiar result: a one-run defeat.
A 4-3 loss Sunday to San Francisco State, wrapping up a 2-3 stay at the Tournament of Champions, was indicative of the team’s fortunes “in a sense,” Sueda said, and “it being the 16th day on the road trip also caught up to us.”
UHH (14-17) finished with more one-run losses, six, than wins in going 4-11 on the mainland, and offense continues to come only in spurts. Waiakea alum Brandee Chinen hit her first career home run in an 9-5 win against Humboldt State on Saturday and Nikki Zielinski hit three home runs on the trip, but against the top three teams in the PacWest, UHH managed just 16 runs in 10 games.
The lack of run support has left little margin for error for the pitching staff.
Freshman Alexis Lacy carried the Vulcans in the circle earlier in the season, but she’s lost seven consecutive decisions despite an ERA that hasn’t yet cracked 2.00.
“Alexis has performed well, unfortunately our offense couldn’t produce and the games couldn’t fall the way we wanted them to,” Sueda said. “I believe she will be able to perform after some rest and some regrouping once we get back home. Again, this has been a long road trip and a lot of tough losses along the way.”
The latest one was Sunday.
Chloe Domingo’s second hit gave UHH a 3-1 lead in the the top of the third, but San Francisco State tied the game in the bottom half and knocked out Lacy an inning later. With Malia Risdall pitching in the fifth, UHH coughed up the lead on three errors.
The Vulcans loaded the bases with no out in the seventh but couldn’t get the tying run home when their final two batters struck out and grounded into a double play.
The Vulcans’ 2.52 ERA ranks third-best in the PacWest, and the pitching staff has been stingiest at home, allowing nine runs in eighth games. Sara Bhatt is 8-3 with a 2.02 ERA, and freshman Tehani Soto earned the first two wins of her career on the trip. A return to form by Lacy would prove invaluable.
“I think moving forward as a young pitcher, she just needs to continue to work on her craft and continue to understand that there is always room for improvement,” Sueda said.
The Vulcans get a week to rest of before facing Academy of Art in a four-game series April 11-12, and they finish with doubleheaders against Hawaii Pacific on April 29 and Chaminade on April 30.
“I think it’s to continue to preach that defense wins games and adjustments need to constantly be made at the plate,” Sueda said of the team’s focus. “If we can understand and buy into these concepts, we can finish the regular season on a high.”
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