Excellence on the diamond came to a close last weekend, as Hawaii showed to the nation that its prowess extends to the college level. The University of Hawaii’s baseball Warriors reached the NCAA semifinal level while the Wahine attained a women’s softball World Series berth after Hawaii Pacific University’s Lady Sea Warriors won the championship at the NCAA Division II level. The stellar showing should attract even more baseball and softball talent to island campuses.
UH’s best achievement came 30 years ago when it was runner-up in the college World Series. Simply put, the accomplishments of the UH and Hawaii Pacific softball teams this season were unprecedented.
"It’s beyond anything we expected," Sea Warriors head coach Bryan Nakasone exuded last week after the smallest team in competition demonstrated a winning spirit. "Those teams were very good and very big, but these girls have tremendous heart and determination," he said. The team narrowly beat Georgia’s Valdosta State for the national title.
Little League teams captured the spotlight—and Hawaii hearts—in recent years when Ewa Beach defeated the team from Curacao in the 2005 World Series, and Waipio replicated the achievement in defeating a team from Mexico just two years ago.
Hawaii should strive to seek a status and reputation equaling that of the state of Arizona, UH’s nemesis in seeking a national title. In 1980, the UH men made it to the final round of the NCAA World Series, only to be defeated by the University of Arizona. This year, top-ranked Arizona State knocked the Warriors out of the series while the University of Arizona’s softball Wildcats eliminated the Wahine.
Wahine freshman center fielder Kelly Majam said the team’s success displayed on television "that this team is legitimate and we get to the big show. So I think it’ll definitely help the program." Majam led the nation with 30 home runs and hit .400 while the team powered a nation-leading 158 homers. Big-time talent.
UH softball head coach Bob Coolen believes the performance "opened the eyes of a lot of young ladies at home" and recruits from across the country have turned their attention to Hawaii. The team’s top five hitters and the entire pitching rotation return next spring.
The UH men’s team started the season slowly but finished with its first Western Athletic Conference title in 18 years, qualifying for the postseason for the second time since 1993. The Warriors won four of their last seven games against ranked teams, assuring Mike Trapasso another deserving year at the helm.
The programs at all three schools are obviously well aware that they have opened a grand opportunity to attain lasting success. They should take full advantage—and in doing so, will continue to do Hawaii proud.