Wahine try to tackle WAC


POSTED: Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Carrying the pitching load doesn't appear to be weighing on Stephanie Ricketts.

The Hawaii freshman ascended to the top of the Rainbow Wahine rotation a few starts into her college career, threw a no-hitter in her Western Athletic Conference debut and became just the fifth UH pitcher to reach the 20-win mark.

Now after accounting for more than 78 percent of UH's innings in WAC play, she'll be counted on for a few more this week as the Wahine look to extend their season in the WAC tournament.

“;Once you get there and you're in the game and you need to win to advance, I think that plays a huge part in how good you feel,”; Ricketts said.

Ricketts (21-9 overall, 13-4 WAC) picked up the season's final WAC pitcher of the week award yesterday and will likely get the call tomorrow when the third-seeded Wahine (29-22) face fourth seed and defending WAC tournament champion Louisiana Tech (32-21) in Fresno, Calif.

Ricketts posted two wins over Boise State over the weekend, a no-hitter followed by a two-hit shutout. Both of those games were shortened by the mercy rule, but throwing 220 2/3 innings in a season can take some steam off the fastball and advancing deep into the WAC tournament may mean having to go deeper into her repertoire.

“;It's a matter of mixing and making adjustments when the hitters make adjustments and not just trying to blow it by them,”; Hawaii coach Bob Coolen said. “;Now you have become a pitcher.”;

Winning the WAC tournament would assure the Wahine of a third straight berth in the NCAA Regionals. But a run to the tournament's late rounds could be enough to push the Wahine into the postseason.

A challenging nonconference schedule contributed to a 3-11 start. But since losing their series opener at Fresno State on April 3, the Wahine went 16-2 to put themselves into contention for an-large berth.

The Wahine won all but one WAC series and went 6-3 on the road in league play, going 2-1 in their last visit to Fresno to become the first Hawaii team to win a series at Bulldog Diamond.

“;I know for me it's always a tough time going to Fresno,”; senior outfielder Tanisha Milca said. “;It's good for us to go up there and play in a very competitive environment and at least we know we can do it.”;

The Wahine are coming off a sweep of Boise State in which they hit .474 as a team. Milca moved into the team lead with a .353 batting average. Junior first baseman Amanda Tauali'i (.342, 15 home runs) should be ready after being knocked out of Saturday's regular-season finale by a jarring collision with a Boise State baserunner.

Junior center fielder Kanani Pu'u-Warren was Hawaii's top hitter in the WAC season at .340.

While Coolen said Ricketts will continue to get the bulk of the innings, senior Courtney Baughman—who turned in a complete-game performance last Saturday—and sophomore Melissa Gonzalez are also available.

Hawaii took two games in their series at Louisiana Tech in March, with Ricketts limiting the Lady Techsters to one hit in two starts.

Hawaii's loss that weekend came against sophomore Meghan Krieg, who struck out 14 against the Wahine and went 8-1 in the WAC season. LaTech shortstop Amberly Waits won the WAC batting title, hitting .471 overall and .433 in league games.

The Wahine are scheduled to depart this morning and for those heading for their first WAC tournament, a seasoned senior class can provide insight on postseason intensity.

“;Starting today we'll be letting them know,”; senior left fielder Audrey Andrade said. “;I'm sure they'll be asking a lot of questions on the flight and we're just going to let them know how exciting and fun it is.”;




WAC Tournament

        At Fresno, Calif.



» Game 1: No. 6 San Jose State vs. No. 7 Boise State, 11 a.m.


» Game 2: No. 2 Nevada vs. No. 5 New Mexico State, 1:30 p.m.


» Game 3: No. 3 Hawaii vs. No. 4 Louisiana Tech, 4 p.m.




» Game 4: No. 1 Fresno State vs. Game 1 winner, 7 a.m.


» Game 5: Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 9:15 a.m.


» Game 6: Game 2 loser vs. Game 1 loser, 11:30 a.m.


» Game 7: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 1:45 p.m.


» Game 8: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 winner, 4 p.m.




» Game 9: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 11 a.m.


» Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 1:30 p.m.


» Game 11: Game 9 loser vs. Game 10 winner, 4 p.m.




» Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 11 winner, 11 a.m.


» Game 13: if necessary