Wahine open senior weekend with power surge
Seniors powered the Hawaii softball team to a doubleheader sweep of UC Davis on Friday.
Part of the challenge on Saturday will be to keep their emotions in check for seven more innings before calling it a career at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
“It’s going to be a very emotional day, but hopefully I can keep it together and enjoy that moment,” said Leisha Li’ili’i, who homered twice on Friday to raise her career total to 49 going into her final game with the Wahine.
Li’ili’i, Jordan Burton, Kayla Wartner and manager Justine Tjaden will be honored after Saturday’s 1 p.m. Senior Day finale against UC Davis.
While other sports have a conference tournament to look forward to after senior day/night, the Big West doesn’t offer a tournament for volleyball and softball. UH (31-22, 12-8 Big West) enters Saturday in third in the conference standings behind CSUN and Long Beach State. CSUN has clinched a tie for the title and holds the tiebreaker over LBSU.
“I don’t know if any other sports take it so emotionally because of postseason implications,” UH coach Bob Coolen said. “Everyone (in the other sports) knows (after) senior day there’s more to come, but for us it’s all or nothing.”
Li’ili’i helped get senior weekend off to a resounding start on Friday in going 6-for-7 with seven RBIs in UH’s doubleheader sweep of UC Davis. She leads the team with 11 this season, reaching double figures in each of the last four years.
“I felt no pressure whatsoever going into the past two games,” she said after Friday’s sweep.
“Hitting was super contagious today. It brought the team closer and just started the weekend off on a positive note.”
Wartner also homered in UH’s 10-5 comeback win in Friday’s opener and scored three runs in a 13-1 five-inning rout in the second game. She has 10 homers this season and 34 in her career, moving into a tie with Tanisha Milca for seventh on UH’s all-time home run list.
UH hit eight homers in the doubleheader with junior second baseman Tayana Mata going deep in her first two plate appearances of the second game. She arrived at the ballpark with one this season.
Burton, who entered the doubleheader with four hits this season and seven in her career, drove in UH’s first run of the night and went 3-for-6 with two runs scored on Friday.
“As a senior getting things going was exactly what I wanted to do this weekend,” Burton said.
“I wanted to tell everybody, ‘give it your all, be aggressive and have fun. Relax and have fun and play ball the way you know you can play.’ “
UH played without shortstop Sarina Jaramillo for what Coolen termed “personal reasons,” and freshman Chenoa Au made her first career start in Friday’s opener. Dori Ann Sugai, who shared starting duties with Mata at second base this season, started the second game at short. Both had their shaky moments, but the Wahine had more than enough offense.
Congratulations to the Wahine for a great weekend. Yesterday’s game was fun, but the senior send-off was even better. I noticed a lots of tears and hugs….and smiles…and leis…and family and friends. Was a really nice afternoon. And the chli-dog was good as ever.