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by Tiffany Garrett, staff writer

After being denied a postseason place last year, the HPU softball team is back to avenge the injustice. The 2008 NCAA Division II statistical champion made a bold statement by shutting out the Chaminade Silverswords in its PacWest Conference opener, 2-0 and 13-0, on Feb. 22.
The Lady Sea Warriors (11-1) defeated the Swords (0-8) at Central O‘ahu Regional Park in the conference opener by scoring two runs in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded following a single and two walks, Sherise Musquiz hit a single down the third baseline to bring in Tajia Acierto, making it 1-0. HPU’s next batter Nicole Riviera flied out to centerfield, but brought in Kozy Toriano before the inning ended.
“ We had a slow start in the first game,” said Head Coach Bryan Nakasone. “The pitcher kept us guessing, and we were too anxious, but we pulled [the win] out.”
Courtney Kessell, last season’s PacWest Pitcher of the Year, claimed the win, after seven full innings with four strikeouts.
In the nightcap, HPU jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and secured the win early. The Lady Sea Warriors picked up two more runs in the second inning, but the bats really connected in the third, with a home run and grand slam by two HPU freshmen. Breanne Patton launched a ball over the right field fence to bring in two runners. Six batters later, with the bases loaded, Maile Kim hit a grand slam over center field to seal the victory. Although the announcer mistakenly identified Kim as Krystal Plunkett after the grand slam, Kim was all smiles walking into the dugout.
HPU would score one more run in the fifth inning before the umpire declared the mercy rule and ended the game.
For the Lady Sea Warriors, Casey Sugihara went 3-for-4 and picked up two runs and one RBI.
“ In the second game we played excellently,” said Nakasone. “We hit the ball well.”
Although Nakasone was pleased with his team’s performance, he realizes how important conference games are this year. Unlike the previous season, the PacWest champion will automatically receive a postseason berth.
“ We play every game to win, but we must pay more attention to conference games this season, since the conference champion gets an automatic bid,” he added.


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