The Cal State Bakersfield softball team came just a few feet away from a dramatic walk-off win, its first winning streak in over a year and its first-ever Big West Conference series win at home.
Instead, Shaylene Fuimaono's two-out 0-1 blast curled to the left of the foul pole at the Roadrunner Softball Complex, Brianna Lopez struck her out looking on the very next pitch and the Roadrunners settled for a doubleheader split and series loss to Hawaii.
Still, CSUB snapped a 13-game losing streak Saturday with its 8-5 win in the opener, the program's first win ever against Hawaii. It got steady showings from a pair of secondary pitchers in Reina Castillo and Kirsten Martinez, a day after Martinez had gone six innings without an earned run in the Roadrunners' first loss to Hawaii.
"The ability of our pitchers today to not give anything free, and our defense to not give anything free, really allowed our pitchers to be on the front foot all day," CSUB coach Dan Sperl said.
The offense made the difference between the two games, as the Roadrunners strung together eight runs on eight hits in the first but just two runs on five hits in the second.
Sperl credited Lopez's performance in the circle for Hawaii, keeping CSUB guessing, as the primary difference-maker, while also citing his team's less favorable mentality.
"We came into this second game swinging to make contact a little too much," Sperl said, "rather than swinging to really drive the ball and swinging with intention."
The Roadrunners, now 7-34, have shown promise against other opponents this season, but have failed to sustain any sort of momentum. Next weekend's series at CSUN will provide another opportunity to do so.
"We tell the team a lot: The difference between good teams and any other team is the consistency in which they have their best self on the field," Sperl said. "We have to now find that consistency and bring this same attitude and effort into CSUN, and if we do that I like our chances."
CSUB 8, UH 5
Castillo pitched a complete game without striking out or walking a single Rainbow Wahine batter, but was mostly able to scatter 10 hits from the formidable Hawaii lineup.
"We tell our pitchers all the time: If you can throw strikes and control the counts, the hitters will get themselves out and the defense will be on their toes behind you," Sperl said.
Meanwhile, the Roadrunners used a 3-for-4, five-RBI showing from first baseman Karissa Munsey to rally, then build and continuously expand their lead over Hawaii. Castillo shut down a brief Wahine rally in the seventh inning and CSUB claimed its first win in over a month.
Maya Nakamura opened the scoring for Hawaii with a first-inning solo home run as part of her own 3-for-4 outing. The Roadrunners briefly equalized when Samantha Martinez came all the way around to score from first on a throwing error, but in the third inning, doubles by Haley Johnson and Mya’Liah Bethea helped the Wahine go up 4-1.
For the first time since its competitive series with UC Santa Barbara two weeks ago — which still resulted in three losses — CSUB struck back. The Roadrunners batted around in the third inning, first chasing starter Key-annah Campbell-Pua on a bases-loaded two-RBI single by Munsey and Samantha Martinez walk, then continuing the damage with two outs against McKenna Kostyszyn. Maya Molina-Villareal sent a line drive back up the middle past Kostyszyn on the first pitch of her at-bat, then Jordan Head rolled one past the second baseman Nakamura into the gap to give the Roadrunners a 5-4 lead.
Castillo got into a groove in the middle innings, at one point retiring 10 of 11 batters.
In the fourth inning, Savanna Montoya doubled to center to set up Munsey for another RBI single, then the action ramped up in the sixth.
Jocelynn Molina dropped a leadoff single into left field and Kailey Samora pinch-ran. Kaia Johnson laid down a sacrifice bunt but reached first on an errant throw by the catcher Johnson, prompting Samora to bolt for third. She made it there safely, as Johnson reached second on the throw. Hawaii coach Bob Coolen was ejected after arguing with the home-plate umpire; it appeared the ball might have hit Johnson’s bat twice on her bunt.
When the dust settled, and Kostyszyn retired two more batters, Munsey doubled to right-center field to double CSUB’s lead to four runs. Nakamura got one back on a two-out one-run single in the seventh, but the Roadrunners took the 8-5 victory.
UH 3, CSUB 2
After a long offensive slump, the Roadrunners made it as painful as possible for Lopez to close out the win in the seventh inning, forcing her into full counts on four straight at-bats: a one-out walk, a strikeout, an infield single and a Munsey walk on a wild pitch that allowed Johnson to score and cut the deficit to 3-2.
But after Fuimaono's near-walk-off, Lopez retired her to seal the deal.
CSUB's limited offensive effectiveness nullified one of the best performances of Kirsten Martinez's career; the junior pitcher, aided by a tight defense behind her, allowed just two earned runs across seven innings, including just one in the final six.
"She was more confident this weekend," Sperl said. "She was on the attack from the first pitch she threw yesterday."
Hawaii did get to her early, though, scoring two quick runs on three first-inning singles and a passed ball. The Wahine maintained that two-run margin for nearly the entire game. Samantha Martinez took advantage of a pair of defensive errors on a Molina-Villareal swinging bunt to briefly cut the lead to 2-1, but Hawaii came back in the fifth inning with a Haley Johnson RBI single.
Shortstop Xiao Gin, who went 3-for-4, was the primary engine of the Rainbow Wahine's offense.
The Roadrunners got their lone multi-hit showing from Savanna Montoya, who sent a one-out double down the line in left field in the first inning, but nothing came of it.
Until the seventh inning, CSUB's only other promising offensive sequence came when Lopez hit back-to-back batters with two outs in the fifth, but Munsey struck out on three pitches.