Young Wahine mature sooner than anticipated


POSTED: Thursday, April 09, 2009

Talk about growing up quick.

Boosted by the performances of some of its youngest members, the Hawaii softball team enters its series with Utah State within shouting distance of the Western Athletic Conference leaders following a historic weekend in Fresno.

“;Our freshmen—who really weren't being looked at at the beginning of the year as impact players—have emerged,”; UH head coach Bob Coolen said.

Hawaii's freshman class played a leading role in Hawaii's series win at Fresno State last week, a first in the program's rivalry with the Bulldogs. The newcomers will again be at the forefront when the Rainbow Wahine return home to face Utah State in a three-game series starting tomorrow night.

The Rainbow Wahine (17-20, 5-4 WAC) and Aggies (8-22, 1-5) meet at 6 p.m. in tomorrow's opener at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. They'll play a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

They enter the series 1 1/2 games behind league leader Nevada and trail second-place Fresno State by a half game.

Freshman pitcher Stephanie Ricketts (12-7) took the workhorse label to extremes last week, throwing 26 innings over two days in going 2-1 against Fresno State. After going the distance in a 2-1 loss last Friday, Ricketts went 12 1/3 innings in relief in a 7-4 win that stretched a school-record 16 innings.

After Kanani Pu'u-Warren's three-run homer gave UH the marathon win, Ricketts asked for the ball again and responded with another complete-game effort, holding off Fresno State 2-1.

“;I was just having a lot of fun when I was pitching so I didn't really notice how long I was throwing,”; said Ricketts, who dropped her earned-run average to 1.88. “;I wasn't really looking at what inning it was. We were just trying to hold them off so we could score.”;

After the 16-inning game, Coolen said he challenged the team between games and left it up to the pitching staff to decide who would throw in the finale.

“;(Ricketts) came out the door and said 'I'm ready to pitch,'”; Coolen said.

Makani Duhaylonsod-Kaleimamahu, who was playing for Mililani a year ago, complemented Ricketts at the plate, hitting .583 (7-for-12) and going 4-for-4 in the finale to win WAC Hitter of the Week honors.