May 30, 2010

By Bo Allegrucci
Special to

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. - Neither of the top two seeds made it to the finals of the NCAA Division II softball championship, but the two best teams did.

Hawaii Pacific and Valdosta State will play for the D-II title Monday at 2 p.m. after HPU squashed Metro State 7-2 in Sunday's semifinals.

On the same day the University of Hawaii made the Division I Women's College World Series by beating top-ranked Alabama in super-regional play with a walk-off home run, Hawaii Pacific pitcher Sherise Musquiz (33-3) again led the way for the Sea Warriors (49-8).

The 6-foot senior from Pico Rivera, Calif., scattered seven hits and struck out four against a Metro State offense that led the nation in slugging percentage and home runs. Musquiz also went 2-for-4 at the plate with three runs batted in and a run scored as HPU outhit the Roadrunners 2-to-1 despite rarely getting the ball out of the infield.

"It's awesome," Musquiz said. "I think I was nervous at the end of the game. I was shaking from the fifth through the seventh. I let some of my pitches slip and didn't hit my spots today, but I just throw it because I have so much confidence in my defense." Ignorance must be bliss for the mild-mannered Musquiz. When asked how she approached Metro State's Tara Mickelson, who led Division II with 25 home runs this year, Musquiz replied "Which batter was that?"

With Musquiz shutting down the Metro State offense, the Roadrunner defense committed four costly errors and had at least that many makeable outs scored as base hits. After clawing their way through the loser's bracket Saturday, the Roadrunners finally broke down by the side of the road Sunday, surrendering six unanswered runs after taking an early 2-1 lead.

"You know, I almost felt like we were a little sharper because we didn't have the day off yesterday, but they just base-hit us to death and played great defense," said Metro State coach Jen Fisher, whose Roadrunners finished 53-6 in just their third season back from an 18-year cancellation of the program.

Metro State took its only lead with Jennessa Tesone's two-out single in the top of the third inning. Hawaii Pacific reclaimed a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth with four hits and some clever base-running by Chante Tesoro, who avoided a tag at home after being beaten by the throw from Metro State first baseman Jessica Haab.

"When I sent Chante home, she made the only possible slide she could make to be safe," Hawaii Pacific coach Bryan Nakasone said. "If she slid any other way she would've been out. We stranded so many runners early in the game, and that was a concern, so we had to start making things happen."

Second baseman Casey Sugihara later scored her second run of the game on Musquiz's second two-out hit of the day. The Sea Warriors made it 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth after Caira Pires led off with a single to right and moved over on two sacrifice bunt. Pires scored on Ciera Senas's two-out hit.

"Against anybody, a one-run lead is never sufficient, so we wanted to get a couple more runs across the plate, at least," Nakasone said. "I never like to settle for less than a four-run lead because I don't want a (grand) slam to beat us."

Luckily for him, Metro State's defense unraveled in the sixth, allowing Hawaii Pacific to score three unearned runs without getting the ball out of the infield. Five Sea Warriors finished with at least two hits, and the final score might have been worse if not for 12 stranded runners.