Hawaii had lots of trouble with Tennessee’s speed
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. » Hawaii had the offensive power this season.
Tennessee had the power pitcher.
But the X-factor in the opening game of the Super Regional at Tyson Park last night was speed -- more specifically, Tennessee's speed.
The Lady Vols ran all over the basepaths, and also used speed to force Hawaii into fielding errors.
The stage was set in the first when Lillian Hammond walked and promptly stole second to set up a run-scoring hit by Tonya Callahan.
Tennessee used the same approach for its second run. Kamehameha graduate Liane Horiuchi walked, stole second and wound up scoring on an infield hit.
The Lady Vols stole four bases, and all four baserunners scored. Tennessee also scored on a wild pitch by Jessica Morton in the fourth inning.
"We thought our speed game was going to be very effective," UT coach Ralph Weekly said.
He was right -- and his team didn't even have its leadoff hitter, India Chiles. The SEC Player of the Year tore the ACL in her right knee last week and will miss the Super Regional.
Chiles stole more bases (43) than Hawaii even attempted as a team this season (34).
"We challenged (Kenora) Posey and Hammond to step in and fill (Chiles') shoes," Weekly said.
Hammond stole two bases and scored three times and Posey had a steal and a pair of runs.
UT's speed also constantly put stress on Hawaii's defense, as infielders knew they had to hurry with throws to first base.
Tennessee Titans player and Kealakehe and Volunteers alum Jesse Mahelona passed out leis to both teams before the game and UT's coach and players wore theirs to the postgame press conference.
About 50 Hawaii fans waving ti leaves and a Hawaiian flag filled nearly half the section of bleachers on the first-base side. Included in the group were a couple wearing orange UT shirts and UH hats. They were Viavia and Katie Manuma -- parents of UH's Valana and Malamaisaua Manuma, and UT's Anita Manuma (Malamaisaua did not make the trip due to injury). At the postgame press briefing, Valana said that while she talks every day to Anita, prior to last night's game, they only greeted each other briefly and wished each other luck. Both players were hitless, although Anita did score a run.
UH fans can sympathize with Tennessee fans in dealing with new stadium problems. The Lady Vols were supposed to begin playing in their new, state-of-the-art $6.5 million stadium this season. But a series of delays, including finding mercury seepage in the area, kept the Lady Vols from getting to christen their new field.
Tiny Tyson Park was jam-packed last night, with fans even sitting behind the outfield fence to try to catch a peek of the game -- through the black netting on the fence.
When Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium was originally built, the field level was too low, so not every seat had a clear view of the field. The problem was fixed in the offseason.