Getting in shape for the spring isn’t just about strengthening arms and legs for the Hawaii softball team.
During their fall practices, the Rainbow Wahine hitters have also focused on breaking in the bats they’ll use when the regular season rolls around.
"You have to swing a bat at least 2,000 times," UH head coach Bob Coolen said. "We did it the old-fashioned way of letting them take a lot of swings in practice and in the batting cage."
The Wahine will have a chance to get in some live cuts this weekend in an exhibition series with Chaminade at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. UH and Chaminade are scheduled to play a single game today at 6 p.m. (weather permitting) and a doubleheader tomorrow starting at noon.
The NCAA released its list of approved bats for the 2011 season this week, and at least one model Hawaii — along with several other Easton-sponsored schools — used last year was missing from the list that goes into effect in January.
The Wahine have been using several models that are included, and Coolen said the players had not been using the unapproved bat this fall while working in the newer sticks.
"A lot of times it’s the way it feels, the pop coming off the bat," UH junior Alex Aguirre said of the difference between a bat just out of the wrapper and one properly worn in.
Aguirre, one of five starters returning to a lineup that belted an NCAA-record 158 homers last season, said the latest batch of bats the team received from Easton are "breaking in really well."
"I’m sure the new bats will do just fine with the same hitters," she said.
Composite barrel bats remain legal in college softball, though they must have an exit speed less than 98 mph. Bats will be inspected at all major tournaments during the upcoming season. UH is scheduled to play in two such tournaments in February, the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic and the Cathedral City Classic.
Pitching dominated in UH’s first two fall exhibitions last month. Stephanie Ricketts and Kaia Parnaby allowed two hits between them in a doubleheader sweep of Division II Christian Brothers on Oct. 19.
This weekend, Coolen said he’ll be looking to solidify the defense, although the eligibility of a few transfers who could contend for jobs won’t be certain until the spring. He’d also like to see the hitters take a more refined approach "instead of just trying to go up there and smash the ball."
The Wahine close the fall season a week from today with the program’s annual alumnae game.