RAINBOW WAHINE SOFTBALL
Worlds collide for Hawaii, FSU
UH expects emotional series with Fresno State
The Hawaii softball team's home schedule comes to a dramatic conclusion this weekend with Fresno State visiting Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium for a three-game Western Athletic Conference series.
Both teams enter the series tomorrow with seven-game winning streaks, ranked in the national polls and atop the WAC standings with the series winner taking the advantage in the race for the WAC's regular-season championship.
No. 16 Hawaii (40-8, 11-1 WAC) has its highest ranking since 1998, while No. 25 Fresno State is looking to retain the regular-season title for a fourth straight year.
Fresno State at Hawaii
» Tomorrow, 6 p.m.; Saturday (2), 2 p.m.
» Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
» Radio: KKEA (1420-AM), Saturday's first game only)
» Admission: Free
» Parking: $3
"I let (the team) know that Fresno's coming at us, but I also let them know to keep our focus," said senior Tyleen Tausaga.
"We've been doing great for 48 games, let's not do anything different. We just remained focused, remain one team and everybody just do your job."
Tausaga and second baseman Alana Power are playing their final home games this weekend and will be honored after Saturday's doubleheader.
In a high-stakes, high-emotion series, the outcome of this weekend's softball showdown between Hawaii and Fresno State figures to come down to control.
Control in the pitchers circle will be key in a battle of two of the Western Athletic Conference's top offenses. Control of the simmering emotions between the rivals also figures to come into play over the weekend.
"We do have to keep things in perspective because you can't get overly hyped, you can't get too jacked up," Hawaii coach Bob Coolen said. "We just need to say to ourselves, 'We've been here before, we've played a lot of good teams with a lot of good pitchers, so let's just go out and play our game.' "
No. 16 Hawaii (40-8, 11-1 WAC) and No. 25 Fresno State (35-14, 8-1) meet for three games at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium with first-place, and possibly the WAC regular-season title, at stake. UH's final home series of the season begins tomorrow with a single game at 6 p.m.
Saturday's senior-day doubleheader starts at 2 p.m. with an autograph session to follow.
First-baseman/designated player Tyleen Tausaga and second baseman Alana Power make their final home appearances in the series. Admission to the games is free.
"I would love a big crowd," Coolen said. "I would love to have the excitement that is garnered when we go to Fresno with their crowds. I want it to be controlled where it's positive cheering for our team."
Fresno State has won eight of the last nine WAC regular-season titles, a run interrupted only by UH's championship in 2003. The rivalry intensified at last year's WAC tournament in Fresno when UH eliminated the Bulldogs in a feisty game that included some postgame posturing.
"The taunts, the points, the shouting, the comments, everything that unfolded in that one game at their place set the tone for this season," said Coolen, who added that the incidents "should never have happened."
Both teams enter the series on seven-game winning streaks, and not surprisingly, top the WAC both at the plate and in the circle. The Wahine are hitting .309 as a team with a school record 64 home runs and an earned-run average of 1.65. The Bulldogs are second in all three categories, hitting .304 with 35 homers and a 1.83 ERA.
Fresno State sophomore Robin Mackin (26-8) -- who was recruited by UH -- owns the league's best ERA at 1.26, followed by Hawaii's Kate Robinson (12-0, 1.44) and Justine Smethurst (15-6, 1.68).
Tausaga continues to pace the Wahine offensively, hitting .401 with 12 homers. Third baseman Clare Warwick ranks third in the WAC at .396 while Robinson is hitting .353 with 15 homers. Shortstop Hayley Perkins leads Fresno State at .379, followed by first baseman Kristin Sylvester at .371.
"They're more than just Robin Mackin, they have players that know how to play the game," Coolen said. "They're going to come in here and play their game, which is always an A-game, they never bring anything less."