RAINBOW WAHINE SOFTBALL
COURTESY UH ATHLETICS
The Rainbow Wahine softball team won one game at the Super Regional before falling short of the Women's College World Series. CLICK FOR LARGE
Coolen gets second crack with 'very special' team
All but two players return as Hawaii tries to go a step further
Since returning Monday from an odyssey of nearly three weeks, Bob Coolen hasn't had a chance to catch his breath, much less reflect on a remarkable season.
Not that the Hawaii softball coach needs much time to mull over where this year's Rainbow Wahine team ranks among the 16 he's coached in Manoa.
"I can remember every one, and this is a very special one," Coolen said. "Everybody keeps asking, 'Is this your best team?' One through nine, yes. On the mound with the different weapons we had, yes."
YEAR FOR THE BOOKS
UH softball records set in 2007
» Winning Percentage -- .793 (50-13)
» Runs -- 375
» RBIs -- 343
» Home Runs -- 84
» Walks -- 169
» RBIs -- Kate Robinson, 72
» Home Runs -- Kate Robinson, 19
Pitching (minimum 15 decisions)
» Winning Percentage -- Kate Robinson, .944 (17-1)
Player of the Year -- Tyleen Tausaga
Pitcher of the Year -- Kate Robinson
Freshman of the Year -- Katie Grimes
Coach of the Year -- Bob Coolen
First team -- Tausaga, Robinson, Clare Warwick, Kaulana Gould, Alana Power
Second team -- Grimes, Valana Manuma, Tanisha Milca, Brandi Peiler, Justine Smethurst
First team -- Kate Robinson, Justine Smethurst, Tyleen Tausaga, Clare Warwick
Powered by a deep pitching staff and the most prolific offense in the program's history, the Rainbow Wahine (50-13) rose as high at 12th in the national polls and finished one victory shy of the school record for wins and what would have been their first berth in the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Hawaii's season ended last weekend with a loss to No. 1 Tennessee in the decisive third game of the NCAA Super Regional. Though they had been living out of their travel bags for most of May in a journey from Honolulu to Fresno to Los Angeles to Knoxville, the Wahine had hoped to spend a few more days on the mainland.
"It's kind of a bittersweet homecoming," senior first baseman/designated player Tyleen Tausaga said. "We wanted to win and go to Oklahoma City. But since we didn't, it's good to be home because we've been on the road for three weeks. But I wouldn't mind being on the road for one more week."
The Wahine set the tone for the campaign with strong performances in early-season tournaments, then rolled through the Western Athletic Conference schedule to capture the regular-season championship.
After stumbling at the league tournament in Fresno, the Wahine were awarded an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament and swept through the Los Angeles regional. They then pushed Tennessee -- led by pitcher Monica Abbott, USA Softball's Collegiate Player of the Year -- before finally running out of steam Saturday.
The Wahine went 3-4 against teams playing in the WCWS, which begins today, splitting with DePaul and Baylor and going 1-2 against Tennessee.
"At the beginning of the season we had a meeting about having heart," said Tausaga, the WAC Player of the Year. "You can have all the talent in the world and if you don't have heart you won't be able to win.
"Right after we had that meeting we went on a roll. Everybody understood that you have to play for each other and not just for yourself. That's why we did really well this year, because every single person was playing for the girl next to her."
Despite suffering two offseason knee injuries, Tausaga hit .402 to raise her career batting average to .356, third-best in school history. Her 52 RBIs gave her a record 156 for her career, and she ranks third on UH's home run chart with 33 after belting 15 this season. She'll be back with the team next season as a student manager.
Senior second baseman Alana Power is ready to move on to the next phase in her life after starting all 63 games this season, hitting a career-high .281 with seven homers and earning her degree in psychology.
"I get emotional thinking how wonderful an end it was," Power said. "I'm leaving 100 percent satisfied, knowing that I did everything I could have done."
Though they'll have to replace the production of the seniors and fill the right side of the infield, the Wahine return the rest of a batting order that hammered a WAC-record 84 home runs, led by junior Kate Robinson's school-record 19.
Sophomore right fielder Tanisha Milca hit 13 homers from the leadoff spot and sophomore third baseman Clare Warwick came within shouting distance of two school records with 81 hits and 55 runs.
Junior center fielder Kaulana Gould hit .320 and junior left fielder Brandi Peiler contributed nine homers. Catcher Katie Grimes, the WAC Freshman of the Year, and junior shortstop Valana Manuma also return.
The entire pitching staff is also slated to be back. Robinson went 17-1 in earning WAC Pitcher of the Year honors, while sophomore Justine Smethurst (19-9) led the Wahine in wins, earned-run average (1.73) and strikeouts (185). Junior Jessica Morton went 9-1 in 21 relief appearances and sophomore Courtney Baughman started 10 games with a 5-2 mark.
"Even though we're losing only two players, they're impact players. But we've got some girls ready to go off the bench," Robinson said. "I think everybody's really excited for next season. ... Our team chemistry is so good right now and hopefully that'll carry into next season."
With the core of the team returning, a national ranking and heightened expectations will likely await the when they return to Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium -- site of the WAC tournament -- next spring as they look to build on this season's success.
"We will have a bull's-eye on our back ... teams will be gunning for us," Coolen said. "The players will have to have an understanding that what happened this year was this year. Next year will be a whole lot different.
"(This season was) a huge step, but we need to have sustainability. That's the sign of a good team."