As it prepares for one of its busiest and most important stretches of the season, the University of Hawaii at Hilo softball team didn’t have time to play around.
Unlike its previous road stop a day earlier, the Vulcans made short work of downtrodden Dominican on Wednesday.
UH-Hilo will take a hot streak of 12 victories in 13 games into the Tournament of Champions after a pair of mercy-rule victories, 8-0 and 11-0, in San Rafael, Calif.
“I think we learned a little bit from (Tuesday’s) Game 2,” coach Jaime Wallin said, referring to a 2-0 victory against Holy Names. “We played with more energy and fire. Playing how we need to play to be successful.”
The usual suspects from the top of the lineup once again triggered the first-place Vulcans (28-14, 19-5 Pacific West Conference) — who outhit the Penguins (5-33, 0-20) 26-6 on the day — to back winning pitchers Vanessa Salinas and Ashley Nelson.
Third baseman Emily Greene combined to go 4-for-7 with five RBIs at cleanup, third-place hitter Colleen Aubrey was 4-for-8 with three RBIs, and leadoff hitter Kristina Victa finished 4-for-7 with four RBIs and three runs scored.
Second baseman Brittany Huff and shortstop Rebecca Lee added two hits apiece in the first game as ace right-hander Salinas (14-5) went the distance in the six-inning affair and allowed just three hits with two strikeouts and no walks. Asha Prithviraj was 2-for-2 in the second game as Nelson (9-8) yielded three hits and walked three in four innings. Hannah Peterson followed with a spotless fifth.
The Vulcans, who banged out 15 hits in the first game, have scored at least six runs in eight of their last nine contests.
“What’s been great is we’re getting production up and down the lineup. … plus, Dominican helped us out,” said Wallin, referring to Lee’s two walks with the bases loaded in the second game. Also, Victa was hit to force in another run.
“We kept pressure on them and came through in the clutch.”
Of all the highlights on the day for UH-Hilo, perhaps Wallin’s favorite came in the field when Greene made an “extra-effort play” — diving to catch a ball in foul territory to end Game 1. The Vulcans’ only recent blemish was a Game 1 loss to Notre Dame de Namur on Saturday when they make six errors.
“We basically gave them that game,” Wallin said.
UH-Hilo has made only three errors since then, winning five in a row.
“We’ve just been talking about how important it is, and that we need to increase our defensive intensity,” Wallin said. “Hopefully, we keep that up.”
Starting with three games Friday, the Vulcans move on to Turlock, Calif., for a tournament that will play a big factor in how the upcoming West Region rankings take shape.
“I think it’s really important to see how we stack up,” Wallin said.
Of course, if the Vulcans continue to take care of business in the conference — the winner gets an automatic bid to regionals — they won’t have to worry about rankings.
UH-Hilo is two games ahead of Grand Canyon (15-5), while Dixie State (16-6) is in third. Grand Canyon and Dixie State still have to play each other four times.
“We have to win out in league,” said Wallin, whose team has eight PacWest games remaining.
Few of them are likely to put up less resistance then the Penguins.
Salinas helped her cause in the third inning with an RBI single to put UH-Hilo ahead 1-0, and Victa added a two-run triple. Pinch-hitter Arren Nunez drove home a run with a triple in the fifth, and Greene provided the winning margin with a two-run single in the sixth.
Dominican’s Karly Harris (4-17) allowed 15 hits in a complete game with a strikeout. There were no walks in the contest.
UH-Hilo batted around to score six times in the second inning of Game 2, and it tacked on five more in the third behind doubles by Prithviraj, Brittany Spencer and Aubrey.
Ashlyn Moriarity (1-16) was touched for seven hits, six runs and four walks in taking the loss.
On Friday, UH-Hilo plays California State East Bay — a team the Vulcans swept in a doubleheader in February — Northwest Nazarene and San Francisco State.