Softball: Rainbow Wahine open fall practice


Heavy droplets of rain chased the Rainbow Wahine softball team into the dugout for a few minutes Monday afternoon … just as Bob Coolen expected.

The Hawaii head coach noted that a Manoa shower had accompanied opening day of fall practice for most of his 25 years in the program and the first on-field session leading into the 2015 season held to form.

The rain accentuated the sense of renewal for a UH team looking to wash away a 22-28 season last spring.

Not that Coolen has much time to devote to thinking about the past as he preps the team for the new season.

“We have a lot of new kids, we have a lot to learn,” Coolen said during the unscheduled break in practice. “Our learning curve is so big right now. We just have to get them into the regimen and the pace of our practices.

“We’re not dwelling (on last season), a lot of kids don’t even know about last year. We have seven kids who have no clue what happened last year. It’s the upperclassmen that have something to prove this year.”

The rain didn’t stay long and the Rainbow Wahine went back to work on their bunt defense and wrapped up practice with a hitting session capped by a typically impressive power display from senior Leisha Li’ili’i.

The Wahine have adopted “Compete” as their theme this season, and had the slogan printed across the back of their practice shirts and on their 2013 Big West championship shirts, “because that’s were we want to go,” Coolen said. “We want to compete to get there. That’s what we’re fighting for right now.”

Along with Li’ili’i at first base, the Wahine return Keiki Carlos in right field and Sarina Jaramillo at shortstop.

The Wahine had four catchers working in practice on Monday and each will work at multiple positions in the fall.

Senior Kayla Wartner provides experience behind the plate and will also get a look in the outfield. Sophomore Lindsey Willmon will have a similar rotation in working behind the plate after starting all 50 games in left or center field last season.

Freshman Rachel Lack will also split time in the outfield and Lorena Ruiz can play catcher and third.

Jazmine Zamora’s graduation left a vacancy at second and juniors Dori Ann Sugai and Tayana Mata, a transfer from Sierra College, are the top contenders.

Kristina Akiona and Ula Reis-Moniz are practicing at third base following the departures of Kaile Nakao (graduation) and Alyssa Villalpando (transferred to Fresno State). Ulu Matagiese and Jordan Burton will try to establish themselves in left field in the fall.

“Whoever’s going to hit is going to play,” Coolen said of the position battles.

The Wahine have four pitchers on the roster with the return of last season’s starting duo — junior Loie Kesterson and sophomore Heather Morales — and redshirt freshman Brittany Hitchcock and the addition of Georgia Tech transfer Kanani Aina Cabrales.

UH’s pitching outlook last season was altered when Hitchcock suffered a back injury last fall. She had surgery in March to address the injury and gradually worked back into pitching shape over the summer.

“At this point I can go as hard as I want pitching,” Hitchcock said. “It’s just a matter of my endurance and legs and everything getting stronger to get me through a whole game or two games every week. But I can go 100 percent pitching.”

She has some time to work up to that with the Wahine set to play exhibition games against Chaminade, BYU-Hawaii and UH-Hilo in the Kama’aina Classic on Nov. 7 and 8. They close the fall with the alumnae game on Nov. 15.

>> Along with the changes to the roster, Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium will have a new look as well. The framework for a new scoreboard stands beyond right field fence and a padded backstop has been installed behind home plate, replacing the aging carpet-covered wood panels that had been there since the stadium was built in 1998.




  1. hatakeman October 14, 2014 2:37 am

    Yeeaaahhhh!!! Been waiting for the start of a new season.

  2. Kazu October 14, 2014 4:16 am

    Great time of the year. You have Wahine Vollyball,Basketball and now Softball.

  3. Sickman Fraud October 14, 2014 5:58 am

    Every top program has at least one elite pitcher, does Coach Coolen have one? Unless last year top two show vast improvement and or Hitchcock is better than rated as a high schooler, NaWahine faces a long season.

  4. haka October 14, 2014 7:02 am

    Wasn’t an Aussie pitcher supposed to play also?

  5. AdmrVT October 14, 2014 8:04 am

    #3. Yes, but she was injured and decided not to come. I believe she was on Australia’s U19 national team with Rachel Lack, but Lack ended up with the National Team that played in the World Championships (& she did well).

    They need Morales to be more consistent, and Hitchcock to fulfill her potential.

  6. oldtimer808 October 14, 2014 2:47 pm

    Yes pitching is still a question mark. Hopefully we will see some improvements with the current pitching staff. Morales needs to lose a little weight to get a better release on her balls and not walk batters.

  7. AdmrVT October 14, 2014 9:23 pm

    6. They’ll need to bank on Morales improving in her 2nd season, Cabrales & Kesterson contributing, and Hitchcock staying healthy & becoming the ace. Perhaps Cabrales will prove a pleasant addition.

    Curious to see what batting order will be: lead-off & who bats before and after Liilii.
    I expect Lack will be in the mix after batting .400 at the World Championship for Australia. So, will Wilmon who will be a major piece.

    Will Wartner bounce back?

  8. hatakeman October 15, 2014 3:58 am

    Yes, pitching struggled a bit last season, but it was hitting, or lack of hitting, I thought, was a bigger concern. As Coolen said, “Whoever’s going to hit is going to play.” As for pitching, they just need to cut down on the number of walks this season. Too often last season the Wahine got into trouble with untimely and multiple or consecutive free passes.

  9. AdmrVT October 15, 2014 10:48 am

    8. True, hitting was not consistent and needs to improve, but more so the pitching.

    Team ERA was 4.78 (Opponents 4.12) while team batting was .276 (Opponents at .320). Need to get the ERA under 3.00 and opponents BA closer to .250. Reducing walks will help the ERA.

    I expect the hitting will be better, but they need to find a lead-off hitter with a BA and on base percentage, and a 2B.

  10. kimo browner October 17, 2014 1:03 pm

    Tayana Mata maybe the answer at 2b. JUCO all-American, unreal hitting numbers and a voracious work ethic. Her JUCO coach once had to limit her batting practice after hours because her hands were literally bleeding. She has speed on the bases, hits consistently for leading averages in total bases, on base percent and slugging per cent. If her numbers n D1A match her JUCO play–she will be a gem and a huge immediate impact. Hopefully, Coach will not tamper with her batting stance.
    Anxious to see two celebrated recruits–Rachael Lack and Kanani Aina Cabrales.
    The Georgia product can and hit. As true frosh w Ga Tech, Cabrales hit over .300 and contributed as a rotation pitcher. Lack as unreal batting numbers at highly respected international levels of competition.
    We need more speed on the bases and in the outfield. Keiki Carlos needs to step it up a notch with her glove. We know she is consistent at the plate. My eyes are on Willmon as a second year player. Hoping for her to break through as a premier player in the MWC.
    For the wahine fortunes to metastasize, Hitchcock needs to surprise and hopefully, Cabrales performs as a wahine blue collar worker in the circle. If not, we are in trouble. Morales and Kesterson offer little expectations–slim or otherwise.

  11. Jack Brown October 18, 2014 6:53 am

    I don’t know where Sickman Fraud got his information but Hitchcock was a dominate pitcher in high school in Orange County where a lot of the top division 1 softball players come from. She was pitcher of the year two years in a row and was MVP her Senior year. She was female athlete of the year for her high school and for her whole athletic conference. Was also was nominated for the female athletic of the year for the CIF Southern Section. She played with my daughter at Ocean View and it was a pleasure to watch her play and she was a great leader on the team. My daughter really looked up to her. She also played for a top travel ball team and pitched to the best players around.

  12. AdmrVT October 19, 2014 11:15 am

    #11. I agree that Brittany Hitchcock have the talent and ability to be the ace, and if Morales improves, the pitching with the addition of Cabrales should be better. The key is if Brittany stays healthy and reaches her potential. At the same time, she won’t breach 68 – 70 mph like Rickets did. But at nearly 6′, she will provide a presence on the mound they haven’t had since Rickets graduated.

    The other key is they need improved hitting. I like this team — think the have 6 – 7 players that should hit, but need to find a 2B and settle on 3rd base. Tiyana Mata may fill 2B. Villalpando transferred to LBS, so it might be Cameron or perhaps Lack.

    Cameron could also catch. It will depend on who hits. They need Carlos to return to form. Lack will hit – she always has and no doubt is one to the top hitters from Australia with a number of batting titles, and international experience.

    Improvement in pitching, and deeper hitting depth should project to a solid year. Then Coolen has a good group of recruits the next two years. But, it would be nice if he could find a dominant power pitcher. Unfortunately, those are hard to find. Maybe another Australian?

  13. Jack Brown October 19, 2014 4:51 pm

    #12-my daughter did tell me Brittany got back surgery so I hope she can make it back to the pitcher she was. She was a pitcher with great movement and a drop that would get batters to swing and miss or a lot of ground balls. She also worked fast and it kept the team on their toes. Good luck to all the girls, I hope they do well. I will be following them.

  14. AdmrVT October 19, 2014 8:41 pm

    13. Heard she is slowly getting back to form, but needs to get back into “pitching shape.” Hope she is ready by spring, as she will be needed.

    I understand that she can also hit. She should have a good defensive infield to give her support. Jaramillo may be the best defensive shortstop they’ve had in quite a while.

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