Rainbow Wahine softball gets through gauntlet alive

Nicole Lopez took a hack against No. 4 Alabama on Saturday. / Photo by Brian McInnis

It was a grueling 11 days and 12 games.

The Hawaii softball team survived that gauntlet — its last competition before Big West play begins — by going 7-5, thereby completing its nonconference slate at 19-9.

Two of the losses were to No. 4 Alabama, one was a one-run defeat to Utah and one came at the hands of Cal ace Kamalani Dung. The last was to SIU-Edwardsville, a team with three local players from which UH took two of three games.

On Saturday, UH ended the busy stretch by topping Niagara 3-1 in a noon game, followed by a 6-2 loss to the Crimson Tide. Sixth-year senior Brittany Hitchcock (8-5) worked both games, while third baseman Nicole Lopez launched two homers in the Niagara game to leapfrog Callee Heen for the team lead at 10. Alyssa Sojka had a two-run shot against ‘Bama in the second game.

“I think they were resilient. I think some of the kids that didn’t play a lot came in and gave us a bit of a spark,” coach Bob Coolen said of his players after the doubleheader. “Some of the starters were getting a little tired. The 3-1 ballgame early, I knew I had to go to Britt because she just wanted the ball. She didn’t want that first game be an ‘if’ game. She wanted to win that first game and take that game into the second game. She pitched a great first game to get us out of that game. And I thought she pitched a decent game against Alabama.”

Only two of Hitchcock’s six runs allowed were earned in that one. She gave up seven hits, walked three and struck out two.

Coolen gave props to the Tide’s 1-2 pitching combination of Montana Fouts and Sarah Cornell.

UH surprised Alabama a bit with Sojka’s shot over the left-field fence in the sixth inning, cutting it to 5-2 (the game Friday night was over at that point, a 9-0 Tide romp in five). It was the senior second baseman’s second homer of the season and fourth career.

After the unbeaten Tide (31-0) earned a little cushion with a run in the top of the seventh, UH made it interesting with a one-out single by Mikaela Gandia-Mak, and Madison Veldman reached on an error with two outs. Gandia-Mak stole third and Jennifer Iseri came to the plate. The senior reserve made contact and for a second, it appeared UH had something going.

Against the Purple Eagles of Niagara, Hitchcock came on in relief of freshman Izzy Dino to pick up the win, throwing the final 3 2/3 innings.

It was a rough trip to the islands for Niagara, which made its season debut out here. The Eagles went 1-12 here across two UH tournaments, with the lone win against SIUE.

Big West play doesn’t begin until March 29 against Long Beach State at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. The team will use the time in between to rest and review.

“We need to refresh,” Coolen said. “My No. 2 pitcher, Izzy Dino, is in the clubhouse with a headache. She couldn’t come back out for the second game. And then the collision we had (against Alabama), a bloody nose like a football play. (Left fielder) Bree Soma got a bloody nose, got hit by Cheeks (Ramos at shortstop), both going for a popup, a collision. She’s OK, nothing broken. Just a little pop in the nose.

“We’ll be able to take care of our little tweaks and sprains and strains. Especially tiredness, and just talk about (this last stretch).”

This time last year, UH was 16-13. Over these last two weeks, there was no true signature win, but prior to that UH managed to beat Fresno State 8-7 on Feb. 9. That’s probably the season’s signature win to this point; the Bulldogs are 14-9.

Coolen thinks he got what he wanted out of the nonconference schedule.

“Definitely,” he said. “We found out we have a No. 1 and 2 pitcher combination, which is what we needed. We need a little more relief, by Emily (Klee) did a good job on the road in Vegas. We can hit the ball, we can hit it for distance. We just gotta string ’em together. And we can score runs, which is what we want to do. Sometimes we were a little flat and didn’t get a lot of runs, but get enough runs to get the W. So, I just have to be pleased with that.”

A strong crowd of Hawaii and Alabama fans was on hand Saturday afternoon at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. / Photo by Brian McInnis


  1. Matt March 17, 2019 7:42 pm

    This is where it lies for this group. They got off to their best start since 2017, close to 20 wins, but they know that they seriously have to focus against the BWC. This will test Bob Coolen and the softball team to see how they respond. Ever since joining the BWC, the Wahine had been outscored in their losses 86-31 to LBSU, and I’m sure Bob Coolen would love to reverse the fortunes. Hawaii, albeit is 2nd in the BWC in terms of their non-conference schedule win/loss ratio, just behind UC Davis. But if I’m Bob Coolen, I’d let the girls know what the main focus is, which is handling the BWC conference games, because with the way their non-conference schedule has been stacked for them, they gotta hope if whatever they learned from their losses and wins will be put to the test against their conference foes.

  2. H-Man March 17, 2019 8:57 pm

    My second blog comment went into the cloud.

  3. H-Man March 17, 2019 9:01 pm

    Hmmmmm…..So it’s my comment. But I don’t think it violated the terms of service. Oh well.

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