Junior pinch hitter Merilis “Mama” Rivera announced her presence Saturday night at the Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. With the Hawaii softball team trailing late against the Seattle Redhawks, Rivera sent the first pitch she saw over the left-field wall.
The clutch home run plated a pair of runs for Hawaii, putting them in within a shout of a come-from-behind victory. The homer was the first hit of the season for Rivera, a career .088 hitter. It was also her first career home run.
“I wanted to do it for the team,” Rivera said of her pinch-hit home run. “I was super pumped, super excited. I had chicken skin. It was my moment to shine. I’ve been wanting to play. Tonight, I think it showed how bad I’ve been wanting to play, to be that person for the team.”
Pinch hitter Merilus "Mama" Rivera knocks one out of the park on the first pitch she saw! Her first career home run plates two as Hawaii cuts the deficit to 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth.#HawaiiSB | @hawaiiwworld
— Jonathan Chen 🧢 (@jonchen50) March 1, 2020
Outside of Rivera, offense proved hard to come by for the Rainbow Wahine (9-12). The ‘Bows tallied just six hits through two games, first falling to Nevada 4-0, before dropping Game 2 against Seattle 4-3. Hawaii fell to 1-4 in the Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament.
“It wasn’t anything but our attitude coming into the doubleheader,” head coach Bob Coolen said. “We came out lethargic, we warmed up lethargic, and we played lethargic. We made a lot of errors, made a lot of mistakes. We didn’t really help our pitchers. You can’t really help it when your pitchers are going out there, throwing ground balls and we’re making errors. And they’re getting runs out of it. First game had 10 hits against our pitching, which wasn’t good. But the second game was better. We just were too lethargic.”
The ‘Bows, who beat Nevada with 11 runs on nine hits just a night ago, had no such luck at the plate this time around. Hawaii picked up just one hit in the shutout, as redshirt junior Bree Soma singled to lead off the third inning. The left fielder was ultimately left stranded on base, as the next three Wahine batters were retired in succession.
A pair of Wahine pitchers did what they could to keep the game within reach. Sophomore Ashley Murphy, pitching through six full innings and facing two hitters in the seventh, gave up nine hits to Wolf Pack batters. Those hits yielded four earned runs. Murphy struck out four, but also gave up five walks. Junior Emily Klee took over with no outs on the board in the seventh inning. She gave up just one hit as she was credited with pitching the full inning.
Rainbow Wahine held to just 1 hit by the Nevada Wolfpack as they drop game one of Saturday's doubleheader 4-0.
— Jonathan Chen 🧢 (@jonchen50) March 1, 2020
Looking to change their fortunes at the plate, the ‘Bows got off to a considerably better start against the Seattle Redhawks. After being walked to start the bottom of the first inning, Brittnee Rossi stole second base to give Hawaii a runner in scoring position. She later advanced to third on a fielding error, before scoring on freshman Maya Nakamura’s first knock of the ball game.
From that point on, however, the Wahine bats again went into hiding. The ‘Bows tallied just two hits over the next four innings. Meanwhile, Seattle ramped up their offense. The Redhawks scored three runs in the fourth inning alone, plating two runs on a single up the middle before scoring another on a sacrifice fly. Seattle added an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning, as a sac fly scored their fourth run of the game.
Desperately needing a jumpstart on offense, Rivera was sent to the plate to pinch hit with a runner on base. Her two-run home run cut the deficit to just one run, giving the Wahine one last chance to come all the way back in the seventh inning.
“It felt good. I felt super stoked about it. I’m sad that we didn’t win the game, but you win some you lose some,” Rivera said. “I’m very humbled and blessed that coach Bob (Coolen) put me in that position. I’m just happy I came out and delivered.”
The opportunity was ultimately squandered. Nawai Kaupe reached base after being hit by a pitch, but Hawaii again fell silent at the plate as hitters around Kaupe were each retired.
The Rainbow Wahine have one last chance to end the Outrigger Aloha Tournament on a high note, taking on Seattle at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
Additional photos by Jonathan Chen: