IRVINE, Calif.–Maybe the third time really is the charm.
After a pair of one-run losses last week at the PacWest AQ Pod Series to Concordia, the Vulcans avenged those defeats emphatically on Thursday afternoon with a 4-3 eight-inning upset of the host Eagles at the NCAA Division II West Region Championships.
Vevesi Liilii hit a two-run homer in the third inning and later doubled and scored the winning run in the eighth on Chloe Domingo’s 2-out double to nudge the Vulcans further into the winner’s bracket. The Vulcans, now 19-11 on the season, will next play on Friday at noon against the winner of this afternoon’s Biola-Northwest Nazarene contest.
Concordia (30-12) will now play in tonight’s elimination game at 5 pm.
The Vulcans had just four hits in the game, including a third inning solo home run by Kiarra Lincoln, but they made all four extra base knocks count. They knocked Eagles ace Callie Nunes out of the pitcher’s circle early and then finally punched through against tough reliever Kelsea Sweeney in the top of the eighth.
In that third inning, Lincoln fouled two balls deep and out of play before zeroing in on a Nunes pitch for a no-doubter over the left field fence. After Darian Obara walked, Vevesi launched a ball that flew over the fence, over some trees and a shed to give the Vulcans a 3-0 lead and chasing Nunes from the contest.
Meanwhile, UH Hilo got a solid starting pitching performance from Leah Gonzales, who had a no-hitter through three innings before the Eagles got the bats going in the fourth. In that fourth, Mackinsey Thorpe singled for the first Eagle hit, followed by another 1-bagger by Sydney Sprinkle. Missy Nemeth then followed with her eighth home run of the year over the centerfield fence to tie the contest at 3-3.
Gonzales settled in to get the next two outs and got through the fifth unscathed. Valerie Alvardo then came in out of the bullpen, less than 24 hours after shutting out Western Washington on Wednesday. She pitched a scoreless sixth and then worked out of trouble in the seventh.
In that inning, the Eagles put the first two batters on base to put themselves in great position to win in walk-off fashion. But the next batter popped a bunt right back to Alvarado, who made the catch and then wheeled to throw out the base runner at second for the double play. The senior pitcher then got the next batter on a ground ball out to send things to the eighth.
Liilii and Domingo got the Vulcans in position for the win in the eighth, and then Alvarado put together a 1-2-3 bottom half of the inning against the top of the order–all with balls hit to UHH leftfielder Kamalei Labasan.
Alvarado picked up her second win of the tournament (7-4), by pitching a near-perfect three innings. She didn’t give up a hit, walked two and fanned two. Concordia’s Sweeney was the tough-luck loser (9-4), pitching six innings and giving up just three hits and one earned run.
Hilo’s next game is Friday at 9 am versus Biola. It will be streamed live.