Kanani Aina Cabrales and Rachel Lack made striking first impressions to open the Rainbow Wahine softball team’s Kamaaina Tournament on Friday.
Brittany Hitchcock followed with an effective re-introduction in the circle at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
Aina Cabrales struck out eight in a complete-game performance and Lack hit a leadoff home run in a 12-0 win over BYU-Hawaii in UH’s first game in the exhibition tournament.
Hitchcock, who last pitched in a game in last year’s fall tournament, also went the distance in a 10-0 win over Hawaii-Hilo in the final game of the night. She allowed four hits, struck out two and walked one.
Heather Morales, slated to start in the circle against Chaminade on Saturday, hit two of UH’s three home runs in an 11-hit attack in the win over the Vulcans.
Hitchcock was expected to anchor the UH pitching staff last season but suffered a back injury following the conclusion of fall practice. After surgery and rehab, Hitchcock worked her way back into pitching shape and was sharp in her first appearance of the fall.
“This is my life so not being able to do it for the last year was really challenging,” Hitchcock said. “But being able to be out there again means the world to me.
“Overall just as a person I feel like I’ve grown a lot mentally. Physically I feel stronger out there. Also the scrimmages we’ve been doing have been helping a lot with my confidence and overall I feel good about tonight’s results.”
Aina Cabrales, a sophomore, transferred to UH after playing a season at Georgia Tech and held BYUH to three hits and walked none. She made an appearance as a pinch-hitter against UH-Hilo and drilled an RBI double to left center.
“I’m never really nervous,” Aina Cabrales said of playing her first game at RWSS. “It was just getting used to the new atmosphere. It’s very different from where I came from. It’s more lively, there’s a lot more people. It’s great.”
Aina Cabrales grew up in Georgia and went 7-10 for the Yellow Jackets in the spring. She has family in the islands and several relatives made the trip from Hilo for Friday’s game.
Lack is far from home as well, the latest in UH’s line of players from Australia. UH coach Bob Coolen put her in the lead off spot in both games and she delivered the first of UH’s five home runs on the night in the bottom of the first against BYUH. She started in center field in the first game then went behind the plate to catch Hitchcock against UH Hilo.
“It’s always good to start playing and being on the field,” said Lack, a member of the Australian national team. “I was happy anywhere on the diamond.”
Along with the contributions of the newcomers, the Rainbow Wahine got production from familiar sources as well. Leisha Li’ili’i went 6-for-7 and drove in five runs in the doubleheader, including a home run against BYUH. Keiki Carlos went 2-for-4 and doubled in the first game.
Kristina Akiona opened the scoring against UH Hilo with a two-run homer in the bottom of the third and Morales launched two-run shots in the fourth and fifth innings.
The tournament continues Saturday with three games starting at 11 a.m. UH and Chaminade meet in the finale scheduled for 3 p.m.
While Morales will get the start for UH against the Silverswords, Coolen said he plans to use Aina Cabrales and Hitchcock in relief.
“I told all three of them they would get a start each, but I want to see a little bit different scenario (on Saturday),” Coolen said.
At Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
BYUH 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
Hawaii 330 213 x — 12 12 2
Taylor Alvarez, Pitisi Tualau (5), Chelsie Childs (6), Brittany Vasques (6) and Makaela Williamson. Kanani Aina Cabrales and Kayla Wartner, Lindsey Willmon (7). W—Aina Cabrales. L—Alvarez.
Leading hitters—BYUH: Lizabelle Talataina, 2B. Hawaii: Rachel Lack, HR; Keiki Carlos, 2-4, 2B, RBI; Leisha Lii’li’i, 3-3, HR, 4 RBIs; Heather Morales, 2B; Willmon, RBI; Sarina Jaramillo, 2-3; Ula Reis-Moniz, RBI; Dori Ann Sugai, RBI; Kiani Wong RBI.
UH-Hilo 000 000 0 — 0 4 2
Hawaii 002 233 x — 10 11 0
Vanessa Salinas, Danielle Wilson (5) and Danielle Pulido. Brittany Hitchock and Rachel Lack. W—Hitchcock. L—Salinas.
Leading hitters—UH-Hilo: Shelby Vickers, 2-3.
Hawaii: Leisha Li’ili’i, 3-4, RBI; Kristina Akiona, 2-3, HR, 2 RBIs; Heather Morales, 2-4, 2 HR, 4 RBIs; Kanani Aina Cabrales, 2B, RBI.
Chaminade vs. UH Hilo, 11 a.m.
BYU Hawaii vs. UH Hilo, 1 p.m.
Chaminade vs. Hawaii, 3 p.m.