The timing of Rachael Turner’s final swing last Saturday couldn’t have been better — in every possible sense.
The Rainbow Wahine softball team had won the first two games of its Big West series with Cal Poly but appeared destined to settle for a split of last Saturday’s doubleheader.
With Cal Poly leading 2-0 with two out in the seventh inning in the series finale, the Mustangs pitched around UH slugger Callee Heen and Cheeks Ramos kept the inning going with a single, bringing Turner to the plate representing the winning run.
“They called a timeout right before I was getting up to bat,” Turner said. “I was just kind of taking my time and breathing and listening to my walk-up song a little bit and just getting in the vibe of just getting a base hit and hyping myself up to go up to bat.”
Turner attacked the next offering from Dakota Casper — who held UH to one hit prior to Ramos’ single — sending it sailing to right field. The senior first baseman hustled down the line and was rounding first when she saw it clear the fence for her first collegiate home run, giving UH a 3-2 win and its first Big West sweep since 2015.
Adding to that delicious walk-off moment, Turner’s father happened to make the trip from Las Vegas for the weekend and was in the stands at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium to celebrate her blast.
“It was awesome. I was tearing up as I was rounding (the bases), and I was just hearing Coach Bob (Coolen) yelling my name,” Turner said. “It was just a really special moment and my dad was there to watch which was really cool. … It really was a dream come true.”
Turner’s path to her opportunity enhanced the sense of gratification. She joined the program as a walk-on and made two appearances as a freshman. She filled in at first base for 29 starts as a sophomore but was limited to 14 games last season while backing up senior Heather Morales.
She claimed the starting role as a senior and has been in the lineup for 33 of 35 games.
“Coming in as a walk on I knew that was probably going to be the hardest thing I ever had to do, to earn a spot on a team like this,” said Turner, who is now on scholarship. “I had to be patient and learn from the people who came before me.
“I feel I have kind of a different perspective on everything just because I’ve done every role on this team. I’ve been somebody who’s been sitting on the bench the whole season, I’ve been a pinch hitter, and now I’ve finally got a starting role which is just amazing.”
Turner’s homer sent UH on its second conference road trip at 19-16 overall and 3-3 in league play entering a series at UC Santa Barbara (15-24, 2-4) starting Friday.
After being swept by Long Beach State by an aggregate score of 20-3, Wahine senior Dana Thomsen set the tone for the bounce-back weekend against Cal Poly by throwing 12 scoreless innings in the first two games.
The right-hander opened the series last Friday by retiring the first 10 Mustangs she faced and limited Cal Poly to four hits, struck out four and walked none in a 1-0 victory. She had far more cushion on Saturday when the Wahine hit three homers in the first inning of an 11-0 rout. Nicole Lopez homered twice in the game and drove in a career high five runs.
Thomsen allowed three hits in the five-inning complete game and was rewarded with her first Big West pitcher of the week award on Monday.
“I think we came together as a team and talked as a team and we talked about our flaws,” Thomsen said, “and I think the team that was in Long Beach, stayed in Long Beach and the team that came out for Cal Poly is the team we want to travel moving forward to Santa Barbara. It was night and day.”
— Jason Kaneshiro (@jasonkaneshiro) April 8, 2018