RAINBOW WAHINE SOFTBALL
UH opens softball season in Paradise Classic tomorrow
If Hawaii softball coach Bob Coolen wanted to test the Rainbow Wahine early in the season, he'll likely get his wish this weekend.
Hawaii opens the season tomorrow at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium in an Oceanic Time Warner Cable Paradise Classic that includes two teams ranked in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 preseason poll.
Joining UH in the five-team field are No. 15 Nebraska and No. 24 Auburn. Portland State also reached the postseason last spring while DePaul received votes in the preseason poll.
"We have four very good teams coming in here and it'll be a tough task for sure," Coolen said.
Hawaii opens with a doubleheader tomorrow against Portland State at 4 p.m., followed by Nebraska at 6. The tournament runs through Sunday.
Nationally ranked teams are a regular feature of Hawaii's nonconference schedule. Also coming to town for early-season tournaments are No. 6 Oregon State, No. 10 California, No. 14 Georgia and No. 18 Baylor. Western Athletic Conference favorite Fresno State is 21st in the poll and will visit RWSS in April.
The Rainbow Wahine ended the 2006 season at 32-22 and one win shy of the NCAA tournament, losing twice to Nevada on the final day of the WAC tournament.
The 2007 Wahine were picked second in the preseason WAC poll and senior first-baseman Tyleen Tausaga was named WAC preseason player of the year. Tausaga hit .373 with 10 home runs as a junior, but suffered a torn ACL in the offseason. She now has a torn meniscus in her knee that will limit her to designated player at least early in the season.
"She'll be with us at DP and I'm hoping she can make a big impact from that spot," Coolen said.
Brandi Peiler (.329, nine homers) also returns in left field, while Kaulana Gould, an All-WAC outfielder last season is moving to catcher. Kate Robinson was the All-WAC pick as a utility player and can contribute at first base and in the pitchers circle. Coolen is also looking to get freshman first baseman Amanda Taualii's bat into the lineup.
The pitching staff is anchored by sophomore Justine Smethurst, who went 16-12 with a 1.89 earned-run average and threw three perfect games as a freshman. Courtney Baughman also returns after a 9-5 season.
"(Smethurst) is throwing a lot harder and what we need from her is 20 wins and she knows that," Coolen said. "We need a 20-game winner to go anywhere."