May 29, 2010

By Bo Allegrucci
Special to

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. - Finally, a more typical softball game at the NCAA Division II softball championships at the Heritage Sports Complex.

And since the scoreboard only had room for 10 innings, Hawaii Pacific settled things just in time with a 1-0 win in 10 Friday over Angelo State. The Sea Warriors advance out of the winner's bracket to play for a chance at the national championship on Sunday, while Angelo State will play in a loser's bracket game on Saturday.

After a game-saving catch by centerfielder Kozy Toriano helped the Sea Warriors escape a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh, Toriano scored on an Angelo State throwing error in the top of the 10th to steal the win for Hawaii Pacific.

HPU also got another crafty performance from senior right-hander Sherise Musquiz, who allowed just six hits in 10 shutout innings, striking out four and walking two, while throwing 127 pitches.

The line for Angelo State starter Chelsea Nelson was almost identical: six hits, no earned runs, with five strikeouts and one walk on 127 pitches.

Neither team got a runner past second in the first six innings.

"Both pitchers threw great games out there and both defenses were working great ... it's too bad somebody had to lose," Hawaii Pacific coach Bryan Nakasone said. "It was a hard battle to win. There were a lot of doubleplays turned that killed innings and a lot of times where both teams had opportunities but didn't get the timely hit or anything else they needed."

In a game that had everything but offense, the defense was as good as the pitching for most of the game.

The Sea Warriors made a pair of swell plays behind Musquiz in the bottom of the first, with Ciera Senas diving to snag a sinking liner in shallow left field and Celina Garces back-handing a ball in the hole between short and third to make the long throw to first on time.

Catcher Nicole Morrow threw out a would-be base-stealer at second in the bottom of the third, and Angelo State shortstop Chelsey Walters made a nice overhead grab of a line drive in the bottom of the fifth.

Hawaii Pacific put the leadoff runner on in the top of the fourth and fifth only to strand both, and Angelo State also marooned a pair of base runners in the fifth.

Each team turned a line drive into a doubleplay in the sixth, and the defensive play of the game came in the bottom of the seventh.

Angelo State centerfielder Brittany Astle led off with a single to center and took second on Walters' sacrifice bunt. Three pitches later, Megan Pumphrey socked what looked like a game-winning hit to deep centerfield, but Toriano turned over her glove shoulder and reached out at the last minute to grab the screaming line drive.

Toriano nearly doubled off Astle at second base, but Angelo State loaded the bases with two outs before Musquiz converted a come-backer from Kaycee Taylor to send the game into overtime.

"All day the sun was in my eyes, but when the sun finally went down they hit that ball and I could see it," Toriano said. "I saw it right off the bat and I tracked it down."

Nelson retired 12 straight Sea Warriors from the sixth to the tenth, but Hawaii Pacific finally got a runner to third base in the top of the 10th. Musquiz and Toriano hit consecutive singles to put runners on the corners with one out, but Musquiz's courtesy runner got picked off in a rundown following ball four to Caira Pires.

But Toriano moved to third on the play, so the Sea Warriors still had runners at the corners.

With Breanne Patton at the plate, Pires' courtesy runner -- freshman Malia Killam -- broke for second base, and Angelo State catcher Kacie Easley's throw went into right center, allowing Toriano to scamper home for game's only run.

"You do everything perfect, but you make one mistake trying to throw the ball back to the pitcher and it cost you the game," Rambelles coach Travis Scott said. "We weren't going to try to throw the runner out with two outs or do anything stupid. We were going to make them hit it to score, but we made a mistake.

"I've never lost a game like that and hopefully I never will again." -30-