May 31, 2010

By Bo Allegrucci
Special to NCAA.com

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Valdosta State captured everyone's attention Friday when it stomped undefeated and top-ranked North Georgia 6-1 at the Division II softball championships.

But it was Hawaii Pacific that captured the national championship Monday with a classic 4-3 win over Valdosta State.

The Sea Warriors trailed 2-0 after the first inning and scored all of their four runs in a crucial fifth-inning rally that withstood a wild Valdosta State counterattack.

The Blazers out-hit Hawaii Pacific, 10-7, only to be undone by pivotal errors in the field and 11 runners left on base -- seven of which came in their final three at-bats.

Both teams blew through the tournament's winner's bracket without a loss, but it was a one-game winner-take-all scenario Memorial Day afternoon at the Heritage Park Softball Complex.

"Absolutely I'd like to play two out of three," Valdosta State coach Thomas Macera said. "Obviously it didn't go like we wanted to, and they had one big inning. We just couldn't shorten the game, and they capitalized on the crucial mistakes we made."

Hawaii Pacific senior Sherise Musquiz earned tournament MVP honors, winning all four games as a starting pitcher and batting .333 with four RBI and a run scored from the Sea Warriors No. 5 spot.

Musquiz was 0-for-2 at the plate Monday, and retired the side in order just once in the circle, but she scattered 10 hits and stranded a battalion of baserunners to keep Valdosta State from pulling away early.

"Sherise got hit pretty hard the first inning, but she settled down and we made the correct plays," Hawaii Pacific coach Bryan Nakasone said. "We scored all four runs in one inning and then we just kinda' held them down. We were kinda' stymied for the first few innings until we made our adjustments and started hitting the ball, and then I think they (Valdosta State) got a little excited and started throwing the ball around.

"This is a great victory for our team. Our kids worked hard and they prepared well."

Valdosta State grabbed the early lead with three consecutive hits in the top of the first, the last of which was Alyssa Shirey's two-run double to straightaway centerfield.

Shirey finished the championship series 7-for-10 with four RBI, a run scored and three walks.

As was the case all tournament long, Valdosta State starter Holly Satterfield was untouchable Monday the first two times through the lineup before fading late, and Hawaii Pacific cracked Satterfield's code with a game-changing four-run rally in the top of the fifth.

Caira Pires led off the fifth with a single to left and took second on a Breanne Patton sacrifice, and the Sea Warriors tied the game at 2 with three straight singles and a Valdosta State error.

Margaret Carter relieved Satterfield for the fourth consecutive game and surrendered two more runs on a single and an error, but Carter got two big outs to leave the bases loaded and keep the deficit at 4-2.

"That changed the entire complexion of the game," Macera said. "They scored four runs on two errors when we had a chance to make plays, but we let it roll too long and gave up too many runs.

"It started unraveling, but it only unraveled for one inning. We never quit, and we battled back and reset, and they (HPU) didn't do anything else to us."

Hawaii Pacific (50-8) gave a run back in the bottom of the fifth on an odd play. With runners on first and third and two outs, Shirey fouled out down the left field line, and with Blazer Amber Shaw having already trotted home thinking there were two outs, the Sea Warriors had a chance for an inning-ending double play.

Instead, HPU leftfielder Ciera Senas (who was 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored) threw the ball wild through the middle of the infield, and Shaw raced back to third and then back home to close the gap to 4-3.

Musquiz walked Stephanie Carlson to put runners on first and third with two outs, but Valdosta State left them there. Musquiz also worked around a pair of two-out singles in the bottom of the sixth with the help of a nice defensive play from shortstop Celina Garces.

"We had chances to get more runs, but we didn't get the timely hits we needed," Macera said. "We out-hit them, but it seems like the balls we hit went right at them or they made great plays. If they don't make a couple of those plays, we win the game or at least we're still playing right now."

The heart of the Valdosta State (51-9) order made things interesting in the last at-bat of the season. Marti Littlefield grounded out on the first pitch of the inning, but Shirey lined the second into centerfield to bring the winning run to the plate with one out.

Carlson blooped a single over second base and Colette Rollins walked to load the bases, but after pinch-hitter Amy Brightwell lined out sharply to third, April Hutchens flew out to center to end the game with a Blazer on every base.