Playing in familiar surroundings, Chardonnay Pantastico made a smooth transition from orange and black to green and white on Thursday.
An All-State shortstop at Campbell, the Hawaii freshman started in right field in her collegiate debut at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. After going 0-for-2 against Sacramento State in the first game of UH’s season-opening Paradise Classic doubleheader, Pantastico went 3-for-3 and launched UH’s first home run of 2017 in a 5-3 win over Boise State.
“It felt really good,” Pantastico said after the UH sweep. “I was really praying for it. I just kept my faith and saw it right there.”
Pantastico played in 15 state tournament games at RWSS during her high school career while helping Campbell place third in 2013 and second in 2014 before claiming back-to-back championships her junior and senior seasons.
She acknowledged some butterflies before Thursday’s first game but once she settled in, playing at RWSS in a UH uniform was “not different at all.”
“I played here so much in the state tournament … I felt comfortable on the field.”
Pantastico hadn’t played right field since her freshman year at Campbell, and didn’t touch the ball in UH’s 5-0 win over Sacramento State with junior right-hander Brittany Hitchcock striking out a career-high 11 and otherwise forcing infield grounders.
Pantastico came up with two runners on in the bottom of the second inning against Boise State and lined a single into right field to score Jennifer Iseri with the game’s first run. She singled up the middle in the fourth and led off the sixth with her blast to right field to give senior pitcher Kanani Aina Cabrales an insurance run.
“I was pretty nervous about it,” Pantastico said of her debut. “But when our team started scoring runs, everyone was supporting me and they just told me to relax.”
Pantastico’s performance was part of a productive night for UH’s freshman class. Callee Heen started as the designated player and provided the decisive blow against Sacramento State with a two-out, bases-clearing double in the bottom of the fifth inning. Shortstop Angelique Ramos followed with an RBI single for her first collegiate hit.
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Sophomore Sarah Muzik took over at second base in the fall and went 3-for-7 with two doubles in Thursday’s doubleheader and drove in three runs against Boise State.
Hitchcock held Sacramento State to three hits and walked none in a dominant complete-game shutout to earn the win in UH’s season opener for the third straight year.
“Brittany’s pitches were just really efficient,” sophomore catcher Heather Cameron said. “Low and in, they couldn’t get it.”
Aina Cabrales followed with seven strikeouts and three walks while allowing five hits in a complete-game victory against Boise State.
Boise State’s Morgan Lamb led off the top of the sixth with a home run that cut UH’s lead to 4-3. But Aina Cabrales retired the next six Broncos in order, ending the night with a strikeout.
“She always comes back and she knows how to fix it,” Cameron said. “When her pitches are up, she knows she has to bring it down and she came back really well.”
Cameron helped ignite four UH rallies in two games and scored three runs. She threw out a Sacramento State runner on a stolen base attempt and called pitches for Hitchcock and Aina Cabrales armed with the experience of 29 starts as a freshman.
“Last year was really hard to catch Nani. She had a lot of spin and she’s very fast. Britt, low pitches, I wasn’t really good at catching those,” Cameron said. “But after catching them for a whole year I feel we have great chemistry.”
The Paradise Classic continues Friday with UH facing Oregon State (2-0) in the final game of the day. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m.