Hawaii softball: Rainbow Wahine seek Power 5 win

Hawaii's Rachel Sabourin attempted a double play with the force out of Portland State runner Ariana Abalos on Feb 20. / Photo by Steven Erler, Special to the Star-Advertiser

A topsy-turvy start to the season for Hawaii softball has featured some impressive hitting and hit-or-miss pitching.

One thing that the Rainbow Wahine (8-8) have lacked thus far? A signature win over a power conference opponent.

The Wahine are 0-3 against Power Five teams — they lost to Iowa State twice (8-4 and 7-2) in the Paradise Classic and Iowa (2-1) in the Hawaii Invitational.

Of those, they were in two of them; they gave up seven runs in the top of the sixth against ISU the first time around, and they extended the game to the eighth inning against Iowa with a clutch RBI hit by Cheeks Ramos in the bottom of the seventh, but fell short.

UH gets two more chances this week in the Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament; it faces Oregon State of the Pac-12 on the first two days of the tournament Thursday (6 p.m) and Friday (7 p.m.) at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.

Coach Bob Coolen pointed to the effect a Power Five transfer player, shortstop Nawai Kaupe, has already had on his team in the time since the Maui High alumna come home from Washington. Kaupe leads the Wahine in home runs (six) and hits (19).

“We need to beat a Power Five team. We haven’t beaten a Power Five team in a couple of years now,” Coolen said. “We need to have the mentality, we have a Power Five player in Nawai. Nawai has come back, and sparked a big interest in the way we do things in regards to, she’s teaching some of the drills she learned at UW, she’s going out there and helping and assisting. She’s out there on days off. On things we don’t even have scheduled, she’s out there with the freshmen and the young players. And they’re getting reps. So we need to beat a Power Five this weekend.”

Coolen is right on the Power Five shortcomings. UH went 0-5 against P5 teams in 2019 and 0-3 in 2018. The Wahine last beat a team from the well-heeled conferences in 2017, when they topped Purdue twice in the Rainbow Wahine Invitational.

After a 4-1 showing in the Hawaii Invitational — UH notched two wins apiece over Portland State and Kansas City — optimism is high that could change against the Beavers (10-5).

Outfielder Mikaela Gandia-Mak, who had the go-ahead home run against Portland State on Sunday, has taken over the team lead in batting average at .417.

Second baseman Rachel Sabourin — who goes by “Bueller” to her teammates in a reference to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” — hit .556 last week to earn all-tournament honors and Big West Freshman of the Week.

She said Hawaii was her “dream school” after witnessing what UH did to get to the 2010 Women’s College World Series and taking a trip to campus while on vacation with her family as a 9-year-old.

The opportunity to notch a signature win this weekend is not lost on her.

“It’s huge,” Sabourin said. “We’ve all kind of talked about, we have to beat a big school. But we … have so much that we’re capable of. We know, we’ve all set huge goals. We’ve all talked about it. It’s just a matter of us all coming together and getting everything done. Being able to represent this school, this school has so much potential and we’re trying to get back on the map, that we can be that team at the end of the year.”

Seattle University (5-10) and Nevada (4-10) are also in the field. Coolen considers them nemesis teams from past battles. UH will see Nevada (5 p.m.) and Oregon State on Friday, Nevada (3 p.m.) and Seattle (5 p.m.) on Saturday, and Seattle (noon) on Sunday in a double round-robin.

“This is a good tournament. We’ll learn a lot more about ourselves because we have aggressive teams and a Power Five team,” Coolen said.


ICYMI on social media last week, here was sophomore pitcher Izzy Dino (and friends) after UH beat Kansas City 5-1 on the second night of the Hawaii Invitational.

Freshman pitcher Jetta Nannen talked after making her first career appearance and coming away with the win in UH’s comeback over Portland State on Sunday to cap the Hawaii Invitational.

Also, Coolen summed up the 4-1 weekend.


  1. nomu1001 February 26, 2020 5:46 pm

    TV coverage would be a big boost.

  2. H-Man February 26, 2020 7:14 pm

    Although the Beavers have a 10-5 record, they can be beat by a non-P5 school, having lost to Southern Utah, 1-2 and Long Beach St, 1-2. The Wahine are starting to come together, so I can see them taking one or even two games from the Beavs. Why? The bats are coming around.

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