POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 19, 2011
When Kaia Parnaby spotted Jenna Rodriguez on the field last week, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the image.
"It's kind of weird seeing her in red and black as opposed to green and black," Parnaby said. "It's kind of a shock."
Parnaby, Rodriguez and Stephanie Ricketts — teammates on the Hawaii softball team the past two years — all showed up at the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship in Surrey, British Columbia, this time sporting different uniforms.
Parnaby, an incoming junior with the Rainbow Wahine, pitches for the Australian national team. Rodriguez made her debut with Canada in the tournament's International division, while Ricketts competed in the Elite division with the California A's club team.
"It's weird not being on the same team, considering nine months of the year you're playing with them every day at practice or in games," Parnaby said.
The tournament opened July 9 and concluded on Sunday with Japan defeating the U.S. 7-0 in the final.
Hawaii Lokahi represented the state in the Showcase Gold (16-and-under) division and came through the losers bracket to win the championship.
Along with Parnaby, three former Rainbow Wahine standouts are prominent members of the Australian team this summer — team captain and infielder Stacey Porter (2001-03), pitcher Justine Smethurst (2006-07) and catcher/infielder Clare Warwick (2006-09).
"Playing for Australia is probably one of the biggest things that's come about in my softball career," Parnaby said. "It's something you aspire to when you're young."
Rodriguez was raised in California, but is eligible to play for Canada because her mother was born in Edmonton and is a Canadian citizen.
She applied for dual citizenship last summer and made the national team's tournament roster as an outfielder/designated hitter after completing her two-year UH career. Her highlight of the week was a grand slam in Canada's 8-5 loss to Venezuela last Friday.
"It's definitely a whole new ballgame at this level," Rodriguez said. "And it's great how you have a lot of Rainbow Wahine softball players representing different countries."
Before heading back to Hawaii for her senior season, Ricketts helped the A's go 7-1 in the Elite division. She went 2-1 with 20 strikeouts and nine walks in 22 innings and a 1.59 ERA.
"I like playing in this tournament because even though it's the offseason and I am working on new pitches and mechanics, I still have to pitch against great competition," said Ricketts, the two-time reigning Western Athletic Conference pitcher of the year.
Ricketts also contributed offensively, going 5-for-12 with four RBIs at the plate.
"I haven't really hit that much, so I have nothing to lose and just go up there having fun," Ricketts said. "I rarely go deep in the count … because I was so excited to hit."
Ricketts' sister, Oklahoma ace Keilani Ricketts, is a pitcher with Team USA, which went 7-1 in the International division and defeated the A's 7-0 in bracket play on Friday. Neither Stephanie nor Keilani played in that game.
Parnaby will accompany Australia to the World Cup of Softball this week in Oklahoma City and said the summer experience carries over into the college season "considering international competition is totally different and not just one step above college experience, it's like two or three."
"It's a lot quicker, they're a lot more powerful, they know the game that much better," she said.
Parnaby went 1-3 with a 2.29 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 181⁄3 innings in Canada. Porter finished third in the tournament in hitting at .484 with 10 RBIs and two home runs as Australia finished third in the tournament.
Hawaii Lokahi survived a busy weekend to emerge with a division title. The team went 6-0 in the preliminary round, then lost its second game of bracket play. Lokahi then survived an elimination game on Saturday and won five more on Sunday, closing with a 10-1 win over the Abbotsford Outlaws in the championship game.
Members of Lokahi were Cloey Ganancial, Nalani Antonio, Joen Baker, Destinee Chang, Tiani Hensley, Kawehi Kahana, Shealee Koki, Sharla Kumai-Farrell, Brooke Langsi, Summer Palipti, Kaulawena Reis-Moniz and Maegan Tupinio.
The World Cup of Softball opens on Thursday. The U.S.-Australia game on Friday will be shown on ESPN at 2 p.m. Hawaii time.