JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii right fielder Tanisha Milca rocketed a throw to first to get Fresno State's Ashley White yesterday. The Rainbow Wahine beat the Lady Bulldogs 6-1, but were eliminated by Nevada 2-1 later in the night, their second loss in the double-elimination tournament.
Wahine bounced from WAC tournament
The scene was all too familiar for Hawaii.
There was Nevada streaming out of its dugout to celebrate a victory while the Rainbow Wahine trudged off the field, their stay in the Western Athletic Conference tournament suddenly over.
But after seeing the Wolf Pack score two runs in the bottom of the seventh to knock them out of the tournament for the third straight year with a 2-1 win, the Wahine find themselves having to root for Nevada today to have any chance of extending their season.
"The bubble's still working," UH coach Bob Coolen said. "But (today) we'll see if the bubble bursts."
Nevada will face Louisiana Tech, the last unbeaten team left, in the championship round today. The Wolf Pack will have to beat the upstart Lady Techsters twice to claim the title and the automatic berth to the NCAA regionals.
Though the Wahine were among the last three teams left in contention, a target Coolen set prior to the tournament, Louisiana Tech's surprising run changes the dynamic for the Wahine.
No. 10 Fresno State (51-11) and No. 17 Nevada (42-15) entered the week already in position for at-large bids to the regionals. If Louisiana Tech wins the automatic berth, that likely squeezes Hawaii (38-19) out of the postseason picture.
"Everyone here should be hoping that Nevada wins this and there is no Cinderella," Coolen said. "But if LaTech wins it, we're the odd one out."
"That's going to be the hardest part on Sunday," UH outfielder Tanisha Milca said. "Waiting and watching the selections and just hoping that we get selected to go.
"We have a great class of seniors we really want to make regionals for. If it happens great, if it doesn't, we had a really good season."
Powered by two sterling pitching performances by Kate Robinson, Hawaii came within two outs of advancing to the championship round.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Fresno State's Jenna Cervantez stretched to apply the tag to Hawaii's Kate Robinson yesterday.
Working through the loser's bracket, the Wahine eliminated rival and defending tournament champion Fresno State with a 6-1 victory behind a three-hit performance from Robinson to advance to another elimination game against top-seeded Nevada.
Robinson had thrown 12 consecutive shutout innings for the day heading into the fateful bottom of the seventh against Nevada.
"When you start a new game you kind of re-energize, especially a game like this," said Robinson, who hit a two-run homer to ignite the Wahine offense against Fresno State. "The adrenaline's just flowing and you forget that you even pitched the last game.
"The defense kept making great plays and kept us in the ballgame until the seventh inning. It was great watching the plays they were making, just couldn't hold it."
After Robinson had protected a 1-0 lead for six innings against the Wolf Pack, Sam Bias and Kelsey Starr led off Nevada's seventh with singles up the middle. Katie Stith sacrificed them to second and third. Michelle Beach walked to load the bases with one out. Pinch hitter Sarah Hunt then singled up the middle to tie the game and Jessica Morton came in to relieve Robinson with the bases still full.
Wolf Pack catcher Noelle Micka then lined a 1-1 offering into the right-center-field gap to complete the rally.
"It seems like a habit (against UH), but we both have very good programs and I think any game you play it's either one's ballgame," Nevada coach Michelle Gardner said.
After Clare Warwick singled in a run in the top of the first inning to give UH the lead, Nevada's Katie Holverson limited the Wahine to one hit the rest of the way to earn the win.
"In the tournaments they seem to play a different style of ball where they never count themselves out," Coolen said.
UH reached yesterday's nightcap by first knocking rival Fresno State out of the tournament.
Robinson gave up a homer to Fresno State's Haley Gilleland in the top of the first inning, but shackled the Bulldogs the rest of the way, retiring 16 of the last 17 batters she faced.
Robinson's home run in the third inning was her 19th of the season, tying the UH single-season record.