Bob Coolen preaches weighing both ends of the student-athlete designation equally and March annually tests the Hawaii softball team’s ability to even the scales.
The Rainbow Wahine are in the midst of playing 18 games in 19 days and Coolen noted the team’s balance coming out of a five-day run of games last weekend.
“Day in, day out they have to got to school then they have to get ready to compete. … You’re really pushing them to really be a 50-50 student-athlete, and I give them a lot of credit for staying focused, competing and winning that first game,” Coolen said after the Wahine split Sunday’s doubleheader to close the Texaco Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament.
The Wahine opened last week’s tournament with a loss to No. 15 California then reeled off four straight wins, including a 6-2 win over UTEP in Sunday’s opener. The victory — highlighted by Callee Heen’s tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth inning — set up a matchup for the tournament title with James Madison, the lone undefeated team in the field.
UH senior Brittany Hitchcock threw shutouts in her first two starts of the tournament and ran her streak of scoreless innings to 19 1/3 before JMU scratched out a run in the fifth with two seeing-eye singles. Hard-throwing sophomore Odicci Alexander held UH to three hits in the 1-0 win in the tournament finale.
UH (10-8) has two days off before starting up another five-day run in the Outrigger Resorts Hawaii Spring Fling Tournament. The Wahine open the week against East Carolina on Wednesday.
ECU, James Madison and Longwood are sticking around for a second week and will be joined by BYU and Arkansas Pine Bluff. The Wahine face BYU, which handed them a 10-1 season-opening loss in Las Vegas, on Thursday. They play Longwood on Friday followed by a doubleheader with JMU and Longwood on Saturday. The weekend closes with an 11 a.m. game against Arkansas Pine Bluff on Sunday.
Hitchcock’s earned-run average ticked up to 3.03 after giving up a run in relief against Cal. She ended the week at 1.97 after giving up one run over her next 21 innings. She struck out 17 and walked six over that stretch and enters the Spring Fling at 5-4.
“I think I started to feel comfortable,” Hitchcock said. “Having this be the first time we played a competitive game on our field I think that got us excited as well and I definitely feel like I’ve settled in and felt I’ve been able to pitch well this last week.”
Heen’s batting average dipped to .279 midway through last week’s tournament but she went 5-for-9 with two homers over the last three games to jump back up to .327. She moved into the team home run lead with five and her 17 RBIs is a team high. She had a seventh-inning drive against JMU knocked down by the breeze and joined Hitchcock on the all-tournament team.
“I think it built a lot of confidence for myself because I felt I was in a slump for a little bit,” Heen said of her go-ahead homer against UTEP, “and just being able to hit the ball hard and my teammates having confidence in me and coming back with the win felt really good.”
— Jason Kaneshiro (@jasonkaneshiro) March 5, 2018
Nicole Lopez continues to lead the offense at .362 followed by Jennifer Iseri at .355. Dana Thomsen, who earned the win over UTEP on Sunday, is also 5-4 with a team-high 53 strikeouts against 12 walks.
Also this week …
>> Coolen’s three-year contract extension has been approved and is working its way through the process for final signatures.
>> Hitchcock and men’s tennis player Felix Albert were selected as the school’s recipients of the Big West Scholar Athlete of the Year award. One male and one female student-athlete from each of the conference’s nine schools receive the honor. Hitchcock was a first-team all-conference pick last year and was named to the NFCA All-West Region third team. She graduated in three years with a degree in Family Resources and is completing her masters in Educational Psychology.
>> This week’s tournament marks the return of AJ Tauali’i, one of the captains of UH’s Women’s College World Series in 2010 and now an assistant coach at BYU.