Hawaii softball: Callee Heen climbs up home run chart in Rainbow Wahine win

Hawaii hitter Callee Heen connected on a two-run homer in the fourth inning against Portland State on Thursday. / Photo by Steven Erler, Special to the Star-Advertiser

As so often happens, Callee Heen wasn’t aiming for the fences when she delivered a pivotal blast for the Rainbow Wahine softball team Thursday night.

After the Wahine erased an early three-run deficit against Portland State, when Heen stepped to the plate with a runner on base and two out in the bottom of the fourth, “I was just trying to hit line drives,” she said, “because the wind was really blowing a lot so nothing in the air was going to be really good.”

By staying true to her approach, the ball rocketed off the barrel and did, in fact, elevate well over the fence to right-center, cutting through the wind for a go-ahead two-run homer to help propel the Rainbow Wahine to a 7-5 win to open the Hawaii Invitational.


The senior went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs in support of UH sophomore Ashley Murphy, who recovered from a rough start to earn a complete-game victory, and continued her climb up the program’s career home run chart.

She tied Nawai Kaupe for the team lead with her fifth homer of the season and is one away from catching Kate Robinson (2005-08) for fourth place on the career list after hitting her 43rd blast. Leisha Li’ili’i (2012-15) is third with 49 with Jessica Iwata (2010-13) not far beyond at 55. Kelly Majam’s school record of 72 from 2010 to ’13 will likely remain safe for quite a while.

Along with a veteran approach in the box, confidence — in her own swing and the rest of the lineup — remains a key to Heen’s production.

“At the beginning of the year she thought she had to do it all, she had to put the whole team on her shoulders,” UH coach Bob Coolen said. “Now she’s starting to relax and have a little bit more of a situation where she’s not carrying everyone. It’s like, ‘if I don’t do it somebody’s going to pick me up.’ ”

Through 12 games, the Wahine are hitting a collective .311 and are averaging 6.2 runs per game. Kaupe leads the team at .457 followed by Heen at .441 and a total of six UH players are above .300 through Thursday’s play.

Over the first two weeks of the season, UH’s plate production was often eclipsed by struggles in the circle with UH opponents hitting .323 against the Wahine through 11 games. UH dropped three one-run games in the Golden State Classic in Lake Elsinore, Calif., all of them shootouts with Utah State (11-10), Army (7-6) and Loyola Marymount (6-5).

Murphy’s start on Thursday added to the concern when she gave up a double, two singles and a two-run homer to the first four batters she faced. A runner was caught stealing in the middle of PSU’s opening surge, which limited the damage to a 3-0 Vikings lead after a half inning.

UH answered with Brittnee Rossi leading off the bottom of the first with a double to left-center and freshman Ka‘ena Keliinoi drilling a triple into the right-field corner. Heen followed with single up the middle to cut the deficit to 3-2.

After a quiet second inning, UH scored in each of the next four innings while Murphy settled down to string five zeroes across the scoreboard.

Following the first-inning homer, Murphy retired 11 consecutive hitters and held Portland State to one hit over the next five innings.

“I was just fine-tuning my pitches, found the strike zone and I knew my teammates were going to pick me up,” Murphy said.

“(The run support) was awesome. It makes me feel a lot more confident on the mound and comfortable, lets me pitch my pitches and throw my game.”

With first baseman Sammie Ofoia likely out for the next two tournaments due to injury, Heen started at first base on Thursday with Keliinoi taking over at catcher. Freshman Rachel Sabourin got the start at second and went 3-for-4 and drove in UH’s final run of the night.

UH led 7-3 going into the seventh and the tension picked up a bit when Alexis Morrison delivered a two-run triple with two out to bring the tying run to the plate. But Murphy got a flyout to center to preserve the win and improve to 3-3.

The four-day tournament continues Friday with UH scheduled to face Kansas City at 6 p.m. The schedule was altered from bracket play on the weekend to a set schedule. The Wahine face Kansas City and Iowa on Saturday and have a rematch with Portland State on Sunday.

Head coach Bob Coolen and Rainbow Wahine teammates waited for Callee Heen at home plate on her home run in the fourth inning Thursday. / Photo by Steven Erler, Special to the Star-Advertiser


  1. H-Man February 21, 2020 7:47 am

    Why isn’t Gandia-Mak playing?

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