Rainbow Wahine softball: Coolen joins UH’s 1,000-win club

The Rainbow Wahine softball team celebrated Bob Coolen's 1,000th win as head coach after sweeping UC Santa Barbara on Saturday at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. / Photo by Jason Kaneshiro

The tribute that followed Bob Coolen’s 1,000th win as Hawaii softball coach provided yet another measure of his legacy with the program.

The congratulatory video displayed on the Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium scoreboard included messages from former players to come through the Rainbow Wahine program over the last 28 years, several of whom remain active in softball as coaches at various levels from club ball to high school to college.

“It’s really nice to see a lot of those players still passionate about the sport and making a living off of it,” Coolen said after the Rainbow Wahine completed a sweep of UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.

Going through the all-time roster, Coolen said he counted up 40 players who are still coaching, including two in his own dugout in associate coach Dee Wisneski and assistant Kaulana Gould.

As UH extended its winning streak to seven straight, Coolen joined one of the school’s most exclusive clubs. Only Coolen, Dave Shoji (volleyball) — who was also part of the video — Les Murakami (baseball) and Jim Schwitters (tennis) have amassed 1,000 coaching wins in Manoa.

“I’ve been waiting to join that club and it’s really nice to see,” an emotional Coolen said moments after the final out.

Saturday’s series finale also marked Wisneski’s 1,000th with the program. She enrolled at UH in the fall of 1991, not long after Coolen was hired as head coach to succeed Rayla Allison. After finishing her playing career, she stuck around as a student assistant, progressed to assistant in 1997 and has been a fixture in the UH dugout throughout Coolen’s tenure.

“The journey in itself is amazing,” Wisneski said. “When he came in he was hard nosed. He was straightforward, East Coast … not gonna lie, he was tough. He expected a lot from you and if you didn’t have that expectation of yourself he was going to let you know, because he knew your potential.”

The potential of the weeks ahead for the current group enhanced Saturday’s postgame festivities. In completing their second straight sweep, the Rainbow Wahine improved to 27-10 overall and 8-1 in Big West play. With Cal State Fullerton (6-2) splitting a doubleheader with Long Beach State on Saturday, the Wahine will exit the weekend alone in first place in the conference.

UH is off to its best start in the conference since the 2013 team went 9-0 over the first three weeks of the Big West schedule on its way to the program’s last title. The Wahine head to Fullerton next week for a pivotal series with the Titans.

“I think every year that I’ve played in conference we’ve had some tough starts so to be in this place at this point is a new feeling for me,” said sixth-year UH senior Brittany Hitchcock, who earned wins in Friday’s series opener and the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. “But it’s something I’ve been waiting for and I know the team is excited.”

Hitchcock and freshman Izzy Dino shut down UCSB over the first six innings of both games on Saturday and survived scares in the seventh to complete the sweep.


Nicole Lopez homered in the first inning and Brittnee Rossi added a two-run shot in the third to open up a 3-0 lead. UCSB strung together three two-out singles in the seventh to break up the shutout, but Hitchcock left the bases loaded to finish off a complete-game victory and improved to 14-5 this season in UH’s 3-1 win.

The Wahine gave Dino a 4-0 lead in the first inning of the finale and extended the lead on Alyssa Sojka’s solo homer in the sixth. UCSB broke through for two runs in the seventh and brought the tying run to the plate before Dino got a popup to end the game and start the celebration.

Hitchcock and Dino have allowed five runs between them in six wins over Cal Poly and UCSB over the last two weekends.

“There’s confidence in our pitching and when you have confidence in your pitching you have confidence on defense and then you bring that in the dugout and the offense is just feeding off of each other,” Wisneski said.

“They pick up each other, the chemistry is a lot different. They know it’s a special team.”

While Wisneski said she’s seen Coolen mellow just a bit over the last 28 years, the mission behind their methods has remained constant throughout the ups and downs of the coaching.


“He’s taught me so much,” Wisneski said. “He’s taught me to grow and there’s something you’re going to learn every day.

“It’s always about adjustments, and not just with softball but in life. That’s my main goal is to have the kids learn that about life as well. That’s what he’s instilled in me. You’re going to have the walls in front of you, you’re going to break through them and then we’re going to go forward. Sometimes the wall is not going to break as easy but you still gotta move forward.”

Former UH assistant coach John Nakamura, left, associate coach Dee Wisneski and assistant coach Kaulana Gould posed with Coolen after Saturday’s celebration.

COMMENTS

  1. darkfire35 April 14, 2019 9:43 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS COACH COOLEN! A well deserved win and accolade that was long time in coming! Welcome to the elite 1,000 club! On to the NCAAs!


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