POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 17, 2011
Jasey Jensen sought a fresh start to finish her college softball career.
After a year of junior college and two seasons at Utah, Jensen took the unusual step of transferring for her senior year.
She ultimately landed in Hawaii last fall and her past and present collide tomorrow when Jensen's first road game with her new team puts her opposite her old teammates.
"It's going to be definitely weird, but I'm really excited," the Rainbow Wahine right fielder said of tomorrow's meeting with Utah in the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas.
"I love this team, and I do have really good friends on that team. But this is my family now, so I'm ready to play."
After sweeping through the Oceanic Time Warner Paradise Classic last week, the Wahine — ranked ninth and 12th in this week's polls — embarked on their first road trip of the season yesterday and will play five games over three days, starting with Utah.
The Wahine (5-0) face the Utes (3-2) in the first of two games tomorrow to open their weekend in Las Vegas. UH plays once-and-future Big West rival Long Beach State (4-0) in its second game of the day.
Weather permitting, their weekend in Las Vegas includes games against No. 14 Oregon (5-1) and No. 18/19 Stanford (4-1) on Saturday and Cal State Northridge (3-2) on Sunday.
The annual early-season trip continues with a doubleheader at UC Riverside on Tuesday and the Cathedral City Classic, Feb. 24-26, where UH is scheduled to face No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 21 Nebraska, Syracuse and Virginia.
Jensen was among the newcomers who contributed to UH's strong start at home last week and was named to the Paradise Classic all-tournament team. Her first hit with the Wahine was an RBI triple against UC Davis, and she scored the winning run in the eighth inning of a 1-0 duel with Texas State.
"It meant a lot," Jensen said. "I just came into the program just wanting to be a part of it. I wasn't expecting anything, but just figured if I work hard enough hopefully I can get a chance to play."
Jensen started 49 of Utah's 53 games last season and hit .237 for the Utes. But she began exploring her options after Utah completed a 26-29 season in hopes of renewing her outlook on the game with a season of eligibility remaining.
Jensen's older brother had married a local girl and she had a connection to the UH program through her sister-in-law's father, who played with head coach Bob Coolen in a makule softball league.
"Coach Bob was probably sick of hearing from me," Jensen said. "I e-mailed him every day."
Her persistence has paid off for Jensen and Coolen, who has added flexibility with the addition of an experienced right fielder. Jenna Rodriguez started the season opener in right field, but was UH's designated player for the last four games.
Jensen wasn't alone in making a solid UH debut last week. Freshman catcher Sharla Kliebenstein hit .286 with a three-run homer while calling the pitches for Stephanie Ricketts and Kaia Parnaby, who allowed three runs in five games. Freshman Kaile Nakao moved into the starting lineup at second base and had an RBI double against UC Davis and drove in Jensen with the winning run in the Texas State win.
"That's what you hope for," Coolen said. "Instead of rebuilding, you want to reload."