Wahine move on
LOS ANGELES » One hit might not look like much in a box score. But in Tanisha Milca's case, that hit gave Hawaii an opening victory in the NCAA Division I softball regionals.
Los Angeles Regional
Double elimination; all times Hawaii time
Game 1 -- Hawaii 2, UC Santa Barbara 0
Game 2 -- UCLA 6, Loyola Marymount 3
Game 3 -- Hawaii (47-11) vs. UCLA (37-16), 11:30 a.m.
Game 4 -- UCSB (30-22) vs. LMU (45-17), 2:30 p.m.
Game 5 -- Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 5 p.m.
Game 6 -- Game 3 and 5 winners, 11:30 a.m.
Game 7 -- Game 3 and 5 winners, 5 p.m., if necessary
Milca's only hit was a two-run home run in the bottom of the 10th inning that the Rainbow Wahine needed to defeat UC Santa Barbara, 2-0, yesterday at UCLA's Easton Stadium.
Hawaii (47-11), rated 12th in the USA Today/National Fast-pitch Coaches Association poll, faces 13th-ranked UCLA today. A victory would put the Rainbow Wahine in tomorrow's final.
Milca had gone hitless in four previous at-bats against UCSB's Jennifer Davis, the Big West Conference's pitcher of the year, when she came to the plate in the 10th with Katie Grimes at first base because of a walk.
"I struck out twice earlier with that changeup low in the dirt," Milca said. "I told myself, 'Just be a little bit more patient, see the ball into the zone and drive it through.' "
After fouling off several pitches, Milca lined a 2-2 pitch over the fence in right-center field for her 13th home run this year.
Did Milca think she hit it out?
"I had a feeling," she said. "I was just like, 'Go! Go!' "
Until Milca's home run, Davis stifled the Rainbow Wahine. Davis threw a no-hitter for 5 2/3 innings and retired 11 consecutive batters between the second and the sixth.
"She kept throwing drop balls and moving the ball in," Milca said. "We were kind of going out in front of the ball. We weren't making the adjustment to move up on the plate, watch the ball come in and then hit it."
Meanwhile, Hawaii right-hander Justine Smethurst frustrated UCSB (30-22). Despite allowing eight Gauchos to reach base in the first four innings, Smethurst stranded all of them while getting eight of her 12 strikeouts.
UCSB had a chance to take the lead in the top of the first. Christine Ramos led off with a double off the glove of center fielder Kaulana Gould, then moved to third on a sacrifice. But Smethurst struck out Tisha Duran and Davis to end the threat.
The Gauchos then put runners in scoring position with two out in the second and loaded the bases in the fourth with two out, yet failed to score.
"I think in the first four innings, I let the leadoff runner on base," Smethurst said. "That's definitely one of the worst things you can do as a pitcher because the odds of having the first runner on base getting home are extremely high.
"But after that happened so many times and me having to work harder during those innings, it really got me into the game and made me concentrate a bit more."
In her final six innings, Smethurst conceded just three hits and one walk -- and hoped her effort would not be in vain.
"Mind you, when I was on the bench," she said. "I was like, 'Oh my gosh, will somebody get a hit?'"
Milca obliged by giving Smethurst her 18th victory in 26 decisions and the Rainbow Wahine's sixth in eight games.
"I have no words for this," Milca said. "Walk-off home runs? I haven't had any of those, ever. This is the first. This is a memory I'll always remember."