As sometimes happens in recruiting, Hawaii softball coach Bob Coolen was on his way to watch one of his recruits when he got a tip on another prospect.
Coolen had planned to watch eventual UH signee Sarah Muzik, now UH’s starting second baseman, and another coach advised him to take a look at Callee Heen, a catcher/shortstop/outfielder a year behind Muzik. It took one swing to sell Coolen on adding Heen to his priority list for the class of 2016.
“Her swing was so pure, she was so strong,” Coolen recalled. “She just has one of those sweet lefty swings that you don’t see all the time. “
The fact that Heen is half-Hawaiian and visited the islands frequently growing up certainly didn’t hurt Coolen’s case in convincing her to commit to UH and she’s had her swing grooved early in her freshman season in Manoa.
Heen hit .417 with two home runs to earn all-tournament honors in the Bank of Hawaii Invitational last week and is among four freshmen ranking in the top six on UH’s hitting chart.
“I think my mental approach is working better than it was previous games and Coach Bob has really helped me along the way,” Heen said.
Heen is hitting .333 and leads UH with 10 RBIs entering the Coca-Cola Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament, which opens today. UH (6-6) plays Seattle (3-11) at 6 p.m. with Coolen one win away from 1,000 for his career.
The ’Bows take on Charleston Southern and Toledo in a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday with bracket play set for Sunday.
Heen has started all 12 games, primarily at designated player, and has quite a bit of company in making an early impression in her freshman season. Outfielder Bree Soma leads UH at .381 with shortstop Angelique Ramos (.321) and outfielder Chardonnay Pantastico (.287) off to strong starts to their UH careers.
“It goes through the team,” Heen said. “We’re so positive and the upperclassmen are so helpful in transitioning to D-I softball coming from high school softball.”
After dropping the first three games of last week’s tournament, the ’Bows closed last week with wins over UNLV and Montana behind solid starts in the circle by juniors Dana Thomsen and Brittany Hitchcock.
Senior Kanani Aina Cabrales was not available for the tournament due to illness and was cleared to return to action on Wednesday. Coolen said he plans to stick with Hitchcock and Thomsen on Friday and Saturday with Aina Cabrales slated to return on Sunday.