Friday, February 9, 2001
Minus the righty-lefty pitching combination that he banked on for the last two seasons, Hawaii Pacific women's softball coach Howard Okita hopes defense will carry this year's squad.
SMALL COLLEGE NOTEBOOK
HPU deck missing
Seven of eight starters are returning from last year's Pacific West Conference Pacific Division champions. But right-hander Jennifer Woodard and southpaw Susie Schoales -- two of the best and most decorated hurlers in the program's history -- are no longer with the Sea Warriors.
After 44 wins in just two seasons, including a school-record 23 her freshman year, Woodard decided to end her career with eligibility remaining to settle into married life. Schoales, who finished with a school-record 77 wins after becoming the program's first-ever 20-game winner four seasons ago, was lost to graduation.
Into their big shoes step two freshmen: right-handers Jessica Parra of Mountain Pointe High in Phoenix, Ariz., and Malia Sullivan of Burroughs High in Sun Valley, Calif.
"Our pitchers are freshmen and they have been doing pretty well so far in scrimmages," Okita said. "But (pitching) will be the big test for us. They will have to show if they can be as decent as the two we've lost."
Exclusive scrimmaging is now over and "exams" begin this weekend, as the PacWest regular season gets under way. The four local small college teams will play a 24-game round-robin schedule, involving each playing the others four doubleheaders apiece over the course of the season.
HPU will play Brigham Young-Hawaii in Laie tomorrow, then at Chaminade on Sunday. The Sea Warriors are the preseason pick to repeat as champs of the six-team Pacific Division, with Hawaii-Hilo picked to finish in third, the Silverswords fourth and the Seasiders fifth.
"All the local schools are going to be tough and could come out on top," Okita said. "And they probably think that this is their best year to beat us after we lost our two best pitchers."
Two keys to the Sea Warriors maintaining local bragging rights and returning to the West Regional Tournament for the first time in two years are sophomores Holly Garcia and Kristin Fujii. Shortstop Garcia earned all-PacWest honors last year after hitting .331 with four home runs and 23 RBIs. Outfielder Fujii used her quick bat to crush a team-high six home runs with 22 RBIs.
"(The position players) having that year of experience together, they know what it takes to win ballgames," Okita said. "Hopefully we can still score some runs. Defensively we'll be strong, it's just a matter of whether our pitching will keep us in the game."
HPU participating in coed tourneyHawaii Pacific's men's and women's tennis teams will be combining forces this weekend in the inaugural WingspanBank.com/WTT National Small College Championships in Claremont, Calif. The two-day event to run tomorrow and Sunday creates a unique scenario from which a coed national collegiate champion will be crowned.
Each team match consists of five sets, with one set each of men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles. One point is awarded for each game won.
The 16-team field for the tournament is made up of the top men's and women's teams based on regional representation and their combined season-ending WingspanBank.com ranking. The Sea Warriors' first-round opponent will be Ferris State (Mich.)
Brandon Lee, Special to the Star-Bulletin