LUBBOCK — The Howard College Hawks and the Western Texas College Westerners aren't exactly strangers passing in the night.
The two have met four times this year in Western Junior College Athletic Conference play, in which WTC was outscored by the Hawks 37-3.
A turnaround wasn't in the cards for the Westerners on Thursday, as they found themselves on the short end of an 8-0 ball game in the Hawks' regional championship opener.
Coming off of a first round, 13-12 win over Clarendon College, the Westerners' bats were quieted by HC pitcher Sandra Serna — who picked up the complete game victory and allowed no runs — in the Hawks' postseason debut.
Offensively, the Hawks started the onslaught early when Olive Naotala — who went into the game with a nation leading 28 home runs in junior college action — smacked her 29th long ball to drive in Faith Koria and give the Hawks an early 2-0 lead.
Micherie Koria recorded a RBI single in the bottom of the second to make it 3-0 game. The Westerners couldn't manufacture any runs through five innings but remained within striking distance until Jazzmin Arrant belted a three-run homer — her 15th of the season — to give HC a commanding lead that proved insurmountable for the struggling Westerners.
Arrant wasn't finished.
The slugger recorded another RBI in the bottom of the sixth after driving Naotala home on a single. Shelby Shelton chipped in with a RBI double in the same inning to bring Arrant home and end the game early with a run-rule victory.
HC Coach Kelly Raines acknowledged that the Hawks — who had the advantage of a first round bye — were able to exploit the fact that WTC had already played one game in the 93 degree heat, but remained confident that the tournament is her team's to lose.
“We feel we are the best team,” Raines said. “If (Serna) pitches well and we are hitting the ball, we are o.k.”
The Hawks will face either Odessa College or Midland College today at approximately 3 p.m.
BY BRIAN MCCORMACK