Before the Rainbow Wahine softball team’s seniors were honored in customarily festive fashion, freshman Nicole Lopez extended another senior day tradition.
Lopez’s home run in the bottom of the eighth inning gave UH a 1-0 win over Cal Poly on Saturday and stretched UH’s streak of wins in its home finale to 13. The Wahine have hit at least one home run in each of those wins and 21 total, dating back to Denise Dahlberg’s two-run shot in the second inning of a 5-3 win over Louisiana Tech in 2004.
The conclusion also marked the fourth time since 2010 that senior day ended with a walk-off hit. Jessica Iwata hit a game-winning homer against Fresno State as a freshman in 2010, singled in the winning run against New Mexico State in 2011 and brought the run-rule into effect with a homer on her final swing at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium in 2013. Clare Warwick rivaled Iwata for senior day production with home runs in three straight years.
At least one Wahine senior saw Lopez’s shot coming.
“Me and (Breanna Ojala) actually called it,” second baseman Tayana Mata said. “I looked at Bre and I was like, ‘she’s about to hit a home run.’ And she did and I was, ‘told you.’”
Brittany Hitchcock took a perfect game into the sixth inning before giving up a two-out single, flirting with the second senior day no-hitter in the last five years. Stephanie Ricketts threw a no-no against Fresno State in her final game at RWSS in 2012.
The Rainbow Wahine close the season with a three-game series at Long Beach State starting on Friday. Saturday’s doubleheader will be shown on ESPN3.
For more senior day images, check out Jamm Aquino’s photo gallery and here are a few more notes from the UH seniors after the win:
>> Dori Ann Sugai hasn’t played much shortstop in four years at UH … except on senior day. A back-up second baseman most of her career, Sugai stepped in at short in last year’s win against UC Davis and started both of Saturday’s games on the left side of the infield. She cleanly handled all four of her chances in Friday’s win after entering as a defensive substitute and had three more in the series finale.
“I have a thing for senior night and shortstop,” Sugai said. “I was pretty shocked, but I was ready to play.”
Sugai’s infield single in the third inning was UH’s lone hit before Lopez’s home run and UH coach Bob Coolen said he’ll stuck with Sugai at shortstop when the Wahine close the season at Long Beach State this week.
>> Kiani Wong was sent to the plate as a pinch hitter in the fourth inning, making her first appearance of her senior season. Wong tore the ACL in her left knee three weeks before the opener and went down swinging in her lone at-bat of 2016.
“It was great just to be able to touch the field one more time, especially with such a big injury like an ACL tear,” Wong said. “It didn’t really go the way I wanted it to go, but as long as I was taking hacks, that’s all I wanted.”
>> Sarah McAndrew, the first runner off the bench for most of her two-year career, got an inning in left field in the fourth and when Wong pinch hit, all five seniors were in the lineup at that moment.
“Coach Bob has blessed me with multiple opportunities,” McAndrew said. “Bringing me here knowing that I wasn’t exactly the best athlete, but still believing in me and allowing me to be a part of this team and play at this level. And then to give me an opportunity to play on this field alongside these amazing athletes I get to call my teammates, I’m so thankful for hm for giving me that chance.”
>> Mata accomplished her goal of keeping her emotions in check throughout the doubleheader. She had also hoped to experience a senior/graduation day tradition when she saw last year’s class covered in leis in her first exposure to a UH senior day.
“I was just like, ‘I hope I get like that,’ ” Mata said, peeking through leis stacked up on her shoulders and a haku lei on her head, “and I feel like I achieved my goal.”
>> Keiki Carlos finished her high school career with Lopez behind the plate. Four years later, she was in the on-deck circle when Lopez ended her final college game at RWSS. Lopez was a freshman catcher for Mid-Pacific when Carlos led the Owls to the second of back-to-back state championships in 2012.
Carlos contributed to UH’s senior day home run streak with a grand slam in last year’s win over UC Davis.
Here’s the list of UH’s last 13 senior day wins and players who homered in those games.
2016: Cal Poly 1-0, Nicole Lopez (walk off).
2015: UC Davis 7-1 Keiki Carlos (grand slam), Heather Morales.
2014: CSUN 7-3, Sarina Jaramillo.
2013: UC Santa Barbara 8-0, Sharla Kliebenstein, Kayla Wartner, Jazmine Zamora, Jessica Iwata (walk off).
2012: Fresno Sate 2-0, Kayla Wartner, Alex Aguirre.
2011: New Mexico State, 5-4 Leisha Li’ili’i.
2010: Fresno State 5-4, Jessica Iwata (walk off).
2009: Boise State 8-3, Kanani Puu-Warren.
2008: Utah State 5-0, Kate Robinson, Clare Warwick, Katie Grimes.
2007: Fresno State, 2-1, Clare Warwick, Kaulana Gould.
2006: Utah State 4-1, Clare Warwick.
2005: San Jose State 11-1, Tyleen Tausaga.
2004: Louisiana Tech 5-3, Denise Dahlberg.