Tulsa in town
to tousle Hawaii
By Cindy Luis
The Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame is in Oklahoma City, Okla.
So, too, is the annual Women's College World Series. The elite eight portion of the NCAA softball tournament moved to the Hall of Fame Stadium in 1990, around the time third-year Tulsa coach James Pinkerton was working as a sales manager for Coca-Cola and building a winning reputation at the club level with the ASA Oklahoma Mustangs.
It's just 109 miles from Tulsa, Okla., to Oklahoma City, about a two-hour drive on I-44. Pinkerton has made the trip many a time, but never as a head coach.
Tulsa vs. UH
Who: Hawaii (25-16, 6-2 WAC) vs. Tulsa (29-18, 4-2)
When: Doubleheaders tomorrow and Saturday
Where: Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
And certainly never with the Golden Hurricane, which had won a combined 18 games in the two years prior to Pinkerton taking the job for the 2001 season.
That could change this year if Tulsa continues its winning ways against Hawaii this week. The Rainbow Wahine (25-16), leading the Western Athletic Conference at 6-2, host the Golden Hurricane (29-18, 4-2) in doubleheaders tomorrow and Saturday at the Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
"We as a staff feel that this week will establish a lead in the Western Athletic Conference for one of the two teams," Pinkerton said in an interview from Tulsa yesterday. "We feel that Coach (Bob) Coolen has Hawaii playing well and we are looking forward to playing for the top spot in the WAC this weekend."
Last weekend was a good one for Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane completed a stunning sweep of perennial powerhouse Fresno State on Saturday at Hardesty Sports Complex, 1-0 in 10 innings and 4-1.
It was the first time the Hurricane had swept the Bulldogs in a doubleheader since the series began in 1997, ending a drought of 18 consecutive losses to FSU. Even bigger was the earned run scored by Tulsa's Chrissy Strimple in the bottom of the 10th that ended Bulldog All-American pitcher Jamie Southern's streak of 68 1/3 innings of not allowing an earned run.
The sweep also allowed Tulsa to remain tied with Louisiana Tech for second place in the WAC standings. The Golden Hurricane have won their last four WAC games after dropping the season-opening doubleheader at LaTech, 2-1 in 10 innings and 2-1 in nine innings.
Tulsa saw its winning streak snapped by visiting Oklahoma State last night, 8-2. The Cowgirls broke a 2-2 tie with six runs in the 10th, highlighted by four runs on consecutive home runs with two outs off reliever Lindsey Dyer.
"The wins over Fresno State were very big wins for our program," said Pinkerton. "I have always felt that if we could get our program on the level with Coach Coolen's program at Hawaii and Coach (Margie) Wright's program at Fresno State, we would have a chance to get noticed on the national scene.
"I feel like we are getting closer and have the utmost respect for the two programs that have been leading the WAC the last few years. That's a credit to the two coaches and the jobs they have done leading those programs."
Last May, Hawaii and Tulsa ended their respective seasons in Honolulu after splitting the two doubleheaders. Coolen had been told prior to the series that if his team swept the Golden Hurricane, the Wahine likely would have received an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.
The tournament has been expanded to 64 teams this year and Coolen is now thinking that the WAC could get as many as two other teams invited besides its automatic qualifier.
"The team that wins this weekend is in the driver's seat," said Coolen. "This weekend could add some excitement to the conference race and should set up the order of the top three teams. Tulsa has a few quality wins. They beat Virginia, who we lost to. And their two wins over Fresno shows they can play.
"We may be able to get three teams in. We've played a very tough schedule. Fresno has had a tough schedule. Hopefully, the selection committee will take all that into account. Even if Fresno finishes behind us and Tulsa, the committee will take into consideration Fresno's reputation, their being a former national champion and how well they've done in previous regionals."
Hawaii split its four games at Fresno State to open the season, sweeping the Bulldogs in the first doubleheader, losing both ends of the second doubleheader. Tulsa finishes the regular season at Fresno State with a May 10 doubleheader.
Pinkerton said he is taking it one game at a time.
"Softball is a sport I have a deep love for and I would love to have the opportunity to do some of the things that my peers have been able to do," said Pinkerton. "I would love to make a regional berth in the NCAAs. That is a short-term goal.
"The long-term goal would be to make an appearance in Oklahoma City at the College World Series."
Pinkerton makes a 14-mile commute from his hometown of Broken Arrow to Tulsa during the season. Adding another 95 miles to go to the WCWS with the Golden Hurricane would make a nice drive.