A trip back home gave Kamalani Dung a chance to reflect on how far she’s come.
The former Kamehameha ace earned all-conference honors at Fresno State last year, transferred to California before her junior season and returned to the circle at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium on Wednesday with the 15th-ranked Golden Bears.
The hard-throwing right-hander turned in a solid four-plus innings, striking out five while holding the Rainbow Wahine to three hits in the Bears’ 5-0 win to open the Texaco Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament.
The atmosphere for UH’s home opener in the newly renovated RWSS added to the adrenaline and the rush of memories for Dung heading into her hometown start.
“It reminded me of state tournaments,” Dung said after improving to 8-0 in her first season with the Bears. “It was cool because there were moments where I know when I was younger I would maybe fold under pressure. But now I could see my maturity and it was a huge moment for me to take a step back and say, ‘wow I’ve really matured over time and could really center myself with all the fans cheering.’ It was crazy.”
Dung was named Mountain West Conference pitcher of the year after going 26-15 as the workhorse of the Fresno State pitching staff last season. She headed north to Berkeley over the summer and has alternated starts with Zoe Conley, who earned the save on Wednesday.
“I just want to credit my pitching coach (Chuck D’Arcy). He brought me so far here at Cal and he just knows what to do and he knows how to get us to succeed,” Dung said.
With Wednesday’s performance, Dung lowered her earned-run average to 1.48 with 55 strikeouts against 14 walks in 47 1/3 innings.
Dung was tested in the bottom of the second when UH put runners on second and third with two out. She responded with a swinging strikeout to end the threat and stranded another runner in scoring position in the fourth with her fifth K.
“I knew I had to come through in those moments,” Dung said. “Whenever they got a hit everyone would just erupt and I knew I had to center myself for the team and just focus up and that’s where I think I’ve grown and matured.”
The tournament runs through Sunday and Dung figures to get a couple more opportunities to throw during the Bears’ stay on Oahu.
“This was fun to come here and play at home,” she said. “The family’s here, the friends are here, the fans are here and it’s just awesome.”
UPDATE: Dung got the start again on Thursday against UTEP and took her homecoming week to another level by firing a perfect game in the Bears’ 4-0 win over the Miners at RWSS.
Dung struck out 12 and retired all 21 batters she faced while improving to 9-0.
“It was awesome to throw my first perfect game at home in front of my friends, family and the Cal fans,” Dung said in a post on Cal’s website.
Dung struck out the first two batters she faced in each of the first five innings. She posted another to end the sixth and started the seventh with her 12th K of the afternoon. She went to a 3-1 count to Kaitlyn Ryder, worked the count full, then got a flyout to to right to keep the perfect game intact. A popup to first base then sealed the gem.
“I knew I was going for a perfect game in the last inning and refused to walk the second batter I faced,” she said. “I made sure that if my perfect game was being ruined, the girl I was facing would’ve hit to earn it.”