Sharks Walk-Off Vikings, Earn Twin-bill Split For 1st Win of 2023

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 19, 2023

SAND ISLAND — After a stormy Saturday morning gave way to a nice afternoon, the Hawai’i Pacific University softball team (1-8) split a double-header against the Western Washington University Vikings (5-4). 

The Sharks, entering the day at 0-7 following a tough west-coast road trip to start the season, returned home for the first time in 2023 and hosted a staunch pitching staff in the Western Washington Vikings.

Game One: 4-0, Western Washington University wins.  

HPU struggled to get the bats going in the first of two games, mustering just two hits and three total base runners against WWU ace Mareena Ramirez. The right-handed pitcher had the Sharks off-balance in the box all afternoon, showing why she had posted a sub-1.00 ERA so far this season. 

The Vikings capitalized on Sharks miscues, whether it be a lead-off walk or errors that resulted in extra outs for WWU, en route to all four of their runs in game one.  

WWU scored first, scoring a pair of runs in the second inning after Emily Paulson led things off with a walk and then Brooke Fesenbek followed with a single. HPU starting pitcher Taylor Thompson then recorded a pair of quick outs, but back-to-back singles followed by an Isabel Cargill hit by pitch brought both Paulson and Fesenbek across home plate. 

The score would hold at 2-0 until the top of the 4th inning, when a McKenna Crum lead-off walk and stolen base put the Vikings in business once again. Cargill then picked up her second RBI of the night, drilling a double to bring home Crum and increase the visitors’ lead to three. 

An HPU error in the top of the fifth quickly came back to bite the Sharks, as Paulson roped an RBI double to bring home Roosevelt-grad Kanilehua Pitoy for the game’s final run.

Tiari Hernandez had both hits in game one for the Sharks, including a 2-out single to keep the game going in the bottom of the seventh. Unfortunately for HPU, Kanoe Tanigawa would fly out to Pitoy for the final out of the first game.

Ramirez’s final line for WWU: W, 7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 K, faced 23 total batters and recorded 21 outs. 

Thompson’s final line for HPU: L, 7.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K.

Game Two: 2-1, Hawai’i Pacific University wins.

First-year pitcher Hailey Yoshida got the ball in the second game of the day for HPU, her second career start for the Sharks. Yoshida worked quickly, attacking the strike zone, and forcing the Vikings to put the ball in play instead of allowing WWU to work ahead in the count.

The Sharks, with a boon from a positive start from Yoshida, saw the bats start to wake up in game two. Although a pair of first inning singles didn’t end up resulting in runs, HPU looked far more comfortable at the plate against WWU’s left-handed hurler Hanako Hirai. 

Though HPU seemed to have taken the momentum, Western Washington first-year shortstop Hailey Rath stole it back with one swing, taking Yoshida deep to left field for the Vikings’ first home run of the season and a 1-0 lead for WWU. 

Yoshida would settle back into form, quickly retiring the next four batters. Trouble looked to be brewing in the top of the 5th inning after a lead-off double by Crum was followed by a Taylor Khorrami walk, but Yoshida retired the next three Vikings batters to escape the jam unscathed.

Western Washington would threaten again with two outs in the top of the 6th following an Amaya Davis walk and Rachel Christensen single, though the threat was quickly extinguished with a Crum line-out to shortstop.

The HPU bats started out hot in game two of the day but fell into a similar lull to the day’s first contest in the middle innings. Faced with the final three outs of the day and trailing by a run, Sharks head coach Jarnett Lono begged her team to show patience and try to claw it out. 

Hoku Ching, the junior right fielder, led things off with her second single of the game before moving to second on a walk drawn by pinch-hitting first-year outfielder Kaylyn Dosch. Sophomore Neva Poulin then pinch-hit for Jenasis Guerrero, promptly singling to load the bases for HPU with no outs and the lineup flipping over. 

Hernandez drew a walk on the ensuing at-bat to force home the tying run and force the Vikings to make a pitching change to right-handed Alexis Slater.

Remembering the pleas of her coach at the start of the inning, first-year designated player Emily Wheat stepped to the plate with an opportunity to send the Sharks home with a split of the double-header and, more importantly, HPU’s first win of the 2023 season.

Wheat worked the count, not expanding the strike zone against the freshly inserted Slater. The first-year drew a walk-off walk, scoring Dosch and completing the comeback for the Sharks’ first win, 2-1.

Yoshida’s final line for HPU: W, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 2 K. 

Hirai’s final line for WWU: 6+ IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 1 K.