April 1, 2012 at 2:19 AM HST - Updated June 26 at 4:06 PM
LAS CRUCES, N.M.—The No. 16/18 University of Hawai'i softball team (29-3 5-1 WAC) swept defending WAC champions New Mexico State (18-19, 0-6 WAC) with a 4-1 win in Las Cruces. Stephanie Ricketts earned her 18th win of the season while Kayla Wartner, Leisha Li'ili'i and Sarah Robinson all launched home runs in the series finale at the NM State Softball Complex on Saturday night.
The 'Bows threatened break the game open in the first inning as they loaded the bases with just one out. Kelly Majam started things with a single to second and Kayla Wartner was safe at first on a fielding error by the pitcher to put runners at first and second. After a strike out, Iwata drew a walk to load the bases. But NMSU pitcher Karysta Donisthorpe settled down to strike out the side leaving the Aggies unscathed.
Hawai'i got on the scoreboard in the third inning to go up, 2-0. Wartner led off the inning with an opposite-field, solo home run to left. Later with two outs, fellow freshman, Leisha Li'ili'i launched the inning's second solo homer to centerfield. For Wartner, it was her second bomb of the season and for Li'ili'i it marked her seventh of the season to tie Majam for the team lead.
The Rainbow Wahine added two more runs in the top of the fifth on a two-run shot over the leftfield fence by Sarah Robinson that drove in Majam who had earlier walked. It was fifth time this season that Robinson's went downtown and it marked her seventh in her career.
The Aggies' Valerie Swedberg cut their deficit to 4-1 with a solo home run to right field in the bottom of the sixth inning. NM State kept things going with a pair of walks to Briana Tovio-Asato and Teresa Conrad to bring up the potential tying run to the plate in Brittany Clifton. But Ricketts was able to get her to ground out to third to thwart the rally.
Ricketts (18-2, 4-0 WAC) fired her 20th complete game of the season. She gave up one run while spacing four hits with three walks and six strike outs.
New Mexico State's Donisthorpe suffered the loss, giving up four runs on five hits with two walks and seven strike outs in 4.1 innings. Celisha Walker blanked UH in the final 2.2 innings, allowing no runs with three hits and three strike outs.
The win puts UH into first place alone in the Western Athletic Conference with a 5-1 record. The series finale between Fresno State and BYU was cancelled due to inclement weather, leaving the Bulldogs with a 4-1 record and the Cougars with a 3-2 mark. Nevada is in fourth place at 3-3; Utah State is in fifth at 2-4; and NM State is in sixth place at 0-6.
In the series, shortstop Jessica Iwata led UH with a .571 average with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored. Majam hit .444 with four runs scored, four RBI and a home run while Robinson hit .364 with a home run and two RBI. Both UH pitchers--Ricketts and Kaia Parnaby--had a 1.11 ERA against NMSU. Ricketts went 2-0 with her second career save and first since 2010. She gave up two runs on seven hits with five walks and 15 strike outs in 12.2 innings of work. Parnaby was 1-0 giving up three runs on five hits with two walks and four stirke outs.
The Rainbow Wahine stay on the road this next week with two mid-week games before playing a three-game WAC series against BYU in Provo, Utah. UH will face Utah on Tuesday, April 3 at 4:00 p.m. and Utah Valley State on Wednesday, April 4 at 5:00 p.m. The 'Bows will battle the Cougars starting with a single game on Friday, April 6 at 6:00 p.m. and a doubleheader beginning at 1:30 pm on Saturday, April 7.