Cal opens busy stretch for Rainbow Wahine

After taking its mandated day off on Wednesday, the Rainbow Wahine won’t have many more breaks in the schedule over the next three weeks.

The Wahine (9-7) open the Pepsi Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament on Thursday with their annual meeting with California at 6 p.m. at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. Unlike the previous two tournaments hosted by UH, this one won’t end with a playoff bracket. UH will simply play four games over the next four days starting with the No. 19 Golden Bears. The Wahine face San Jose State on Friday and Sunday and Longwood on Saturday.

Thursday’s game opens a run of 19 games over a 20-day stretch which will close out the non conference schedule.

UH opens it’s version of late-February to mid-March madness against a Cal team that has bounced back nicely from an uncharacteristic down year in 2014. After losing All-American pitcher Jolene Henderson following the 2013 season, the Bears went 23-29 last year and split two games with UH. Cal run-ruled UH 10-1 in the first meeting and the Wahine responded with a 6-2 win later in UH’s Spring Fling tournament.

Cal returns to Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium at 13-1 and back in its customary place in both top 25 polls. The Bears own wins over BYU, Fresno State, No. 12 Florida State and No. 16 Tennessee. Their lone loss came last week against South Carolina.

UH has faced a steady stream of nationally ranked opponents in the season’s first three weeks, going 1-7 against teams with a number before their name. They couldn’t muster much in two losses to No. 4 Oklahoma in the opening week nor against No. 15 UCF last week in the Bank of Hawaii Invitational. They took leads against No. 13 UCLA and No. 17 Washington but couldn’t hang on.

Sophomore right-hander Kanani Aina Cabrales is set start against Cal on Thursday with freshman Brittany Hitchcock scheduled to pitch against San Jose State on Friday. The Spartans are off to a 12-3 start, their best since 1992, and arrive in town hitting .374 as a team.

Longwood made the trip from Farmville, Va., for an extended stay on Oahu. The Lancers (2-3) had a three-week break after opening the season at East Carolina’s Pirate Classic and will stick around for next week’s Outrigger Resorts Spring Fling Tournament.

Here’s the complete schedule for this week’s tournament

California vs. Hawaii, 6 p.m.
Longwood vs. California, 1 p.m.; Longwood vs. San Jose State, 3:30 p.m.; San Jose State vs. Hawaii, 6 p.m.
San Jose State vs. California, 1 p.m.; Longwood vs. Hawaii, 3:30 p.m.
Longwood vs. California, 10 a.m.; Longwood vs. San Jose State, 12:30 p.m.; San Jose State vs. Hawaii, 3 p.m.

>> Before heading to the field, UH head coach Bob Coolen was busy tracking the end of the Rainbow Warrior baseball team’s win at Pepperdine on Thursday.

Coolen’s son, Bo, made his debut for Pepperdine in the Waves’ 15-8 loss to UH. The left-hander from Punahou pitched the ninth and worked around a one-out walk with two groundouts and a fly out to right.