Sometimes it comes down to simply playing ball.
Many of the external incentives have eluded the Hawaii softball team with three Big West series left. But that doesn’t mean the Rainbow Wahine don’t have anything to play for over the remainder of the schedule.
“We really have nothing to lose,” UH third baseman Nicole Lopez said. “Have fun on the field and play these last nine games strong. We’re not really playing for anything but, just these nine games can mean something if we just come together and just pull it off.”
The Rainbow Wahine (20-21, 4-8 Big West) embarked on their penultimate road trip of the season on Wednesday and open a three-game series at UC Riverside (27-19, 4-8) on Friday at noon Hawaii time. The series concludes with a doubleheader on Saturday.
UH and UCR enter the week tied with UC Santa Barbara for fifth in the conference, seven games behind first-place Cal State Fullerton with nine to play. The Wahine took a five-game losing streak on the road after being after being swept at home by Fullerton last weekend.
The Wahine were in contention in the first two games of the series but Fullerton powered ahead in both and closed the series with an 11-1 rout. UH hit .250 in the series, but several well-struck shots found Fullerton gloves.
“We’ve been hitting the ball, it’s just been going straight at people,” Lopez said.
Lopez led the Wahine at the plate in hitting .650 (5-for-8) last week to raise her season average to .331. Her surge coincided with a move into the second spot in the batting order after hitting third or fourth most of the season.
Lopez hit second as a freshman and the move brought her back to a familiar apporach.
“When (leadoff hitter Danielle Garcielita) got on it was my job to move her over so I was looking more to base hits than the long ball,” said Lopez, who also dropped her second sacrifice bunt of the season last Saturday.
“I feel more comfortable hitting line drives rather than trying to lift and launch, and I think it’s helping my batting average a lot.”
Lopez has started all 41 games and her move within the batting order was part of a new-look lineup UH coach Bob Coolen put on the field against Fullerton. Freshman Madison Veldman had two solid singles in five at bats last week and could be among those getting a longer look against UCR.
“We’re taking some players on the road that haven’t gone on the road,” Coolen said. “We’re going to have a whole different feel and look to our team when we go to Riverside. I’m hoping it pays off that these players that we’re bringing home, if they get their opportunity, will spark something for us.
“We’re going to try some new things. We have nothing to lose, we have nine games. We just want to play for respect.”