Wahine push Vols before ouster
UH gets a victory against Tennessee, but falls in Game 3 of the Super Regional
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. » They took the No. 1 team in the land to the brink, but in the end, the Rainbow Wahine had to settle for the pride of taking the Hawaii softball team farther than it'd ever gone.
UH led the host Lady Vols 1-0 in the fourth inning of a winner-take-all Game 3 in the NCAA Super Regionals yesterday, but simply ran out of gas and saw their season end with a 7-1 loss in front of a capacity crowd of 1,127 at Tyson Park.
Hawaii won the first game of the day 9-6 to force the decisive Game 3.
Tennessee (59-6) goes on to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City for the third consecutive year.
"My heart is overflowing with aloha," Lady Vols coach Ralph Weekly said. "We have a lot of friends over there. Both teams left it all on the field. Both teams had a shot at winning it all at some point in the day."
The Wahine end their most successful season ever with a 50-13 record, a regular-season WAC championship and the experience of playing with the best of the best in the NCAA tournament.
"We've been in situations like this before," Coolen said. "Three other times we've been in the last game. In 1994 against Missouri all we had to do was win one game and we lost twice, and up in Washington. We've been in situations like this before.
"We just need to be the team that's in control, that has the swagger. In the first game today, we had that swagger."
UH used four home runs in the first game of the day to power past the Lady Vols, and the Wahine took a 1-0 lead off Abbott in the decisive game when Brandi Peiler blasted a shot over the center-field fence in the second inning.
"I just went to the plate relaxed," Peiler said. She said she wasn't going to wait around to see how Abbott was pitching.
"My attitude was, 'See it, hit it.' It felt great," Peiler said.
Hawaii couldn't get to Abbott the rest of the game.
Courtney Baughman (5-2), making just her 10th start of the season, made the lead stand up through three innings. Tennessee finally got to Baughman in the fourth, scoring three runs on four hits.
With a runner on second base and one out, Coolen elected to pitch to Tonya Callahan, and she promptly made the Wahine pay, lining an RBI single to tie the game at 1-1.
"I don't like to intentionally walk people," Coolen said. "It sends the wrong message. It gives the other team too much hype and the fans too much of a spark.
"We pitched (Callahan) tight and made a bad pitch and she hit it hard."
With two outs and two on, Errin Webb, making her second plate appearance of the series, smashed a ball to the left-field fence that Peiler couldn't quite come up with, driving in two and changing the complexion of the game.
"I love being in that moment, being in the pressure situation where the game is on the line," said the freshman Lady Vol, who had just 12 RBIs entering the game.
Suddenly, Abbott had a two-run lead to work with, the stadium was hopping and the Wahine were down to their final three innings.
"It tailed on me at the last second," Peiler said of Webb's game-changing hit. "I was disappointed because I thought I had a chance at it."
Power and Grimes led off the fifth with consecutive singles, but Abbott quickly recovered to strike out Tanisha Milca and then get two more quick outs.
UT put the game away with a four-run outburst in the fifth off a clearly tired Robinson.
Abbott went the distance again for UT, allowing just the one run on six hits and striking out nine. In her two wins in the series, she allowed one run in 12 innings, with 19 strikeouts.
"We came into this game knowing we didn't want to leave here without two wins," Robinson said. "It didn't happen, but everybody played so hard."
In the opening game, the power UH displayed so often this season finally went on display as the Wahine blasted four home runs -- including a most unlikely shot from injury replacement Julie Franklin, who entered the game with one hit the entire season.
Hawaii scored two runs off Abbott in the first and the Tennessee coaching staff decided to take her out early -- thinking of the possibility of a third and deciding game later.
"Our game plan was if we ran into any problems early, we would make a change," Weekly said, knowing they'd have a chance to bring Abbott back in either later in the game to seal it, or to start Game 3.
Abbott looked mortal from the first pitch, as she opened the inning by hitting Tanisha Milca in the shoulder. Clare Warwick followed with a perfect drag bunt for a single -- UH's first hit off Abbott in the series.
"We came in with a game plan, made a little adjustment at the plate," Coolen said. "We challenged Monica in the first game. We encroached on the plate and wanted to make her come inside. She hit the first batter and after that we played a little small ball and then got on a roll."
For eight pitches in the first inning, Kate Robinson and Abbott went toe-to-toe, after the Wahine had loaded the bases with just one out. Robinson won the battle, as she knocked a single between first and second base to plate two runs. It was the first runs Tennessee had allowed in the NCAA tournament after four straight shutouts.
After Abbott got Kaulana Gould swinging, Weekly decided to intentionally walk Tyleen Tausaga to bring up Robinson. Robinson fouled off three pitches after the count went full, before singling.
The Lady Vols tied it up in the third on shortstop Valana Manuma's bases-loaded throwing error. Manuma, who injured her left ankle in a collision with a UT baserunner at second base earlier in the third, left the game shortly after.
Her replacement was sophomore Franklin, who entered the game 1-for-13 this season. Franklin doubled in the fourth and scored on Alana Power's home run. Robinson led off the fourth with a solo homer, her 19th of the season. Franklin hit a three-run home run in the fifth and UH added another run in the sixth on Tausaga's RBI single.
"Sometimes kids wait for this moment and seize the opportunity, like the saying 'carpe diem,' and (Franklin) did," Coolen said.
The Lady Vols made things interesting in the seventh, roughing Robinson up for four runs, including a two-run home run by Callahan, who finished 6-for-10 in the series.
With UT within 9-6 with two outs and a runner at second, Coolen brought in Baughman to finish off the game. The sophomore got the final out for her first save of the season.