Finishing plays has become Sarah Robinson’s focus as a starter for the Hawaii softball team.
Robinson’s hot hitting earned her a shot at regular playing time. Her development on defense has helped solidify her role.
» Where: Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
» TV: None
» Radio: Hawaii games on 1500-AM
» Today: *Hawaii vs. Tokyo Women’s College of P.E., 6 p.m.
PEPSI MALIHINI KIPA ALOHA TOURNAMENT
» Tomorrow: *TWCPE vs. South Dakota State, noon; *TWCPE vs. Miami (Ohio), 2 p.m.; South Dakota State vs. Miami (Ohio), 4 p.m.; Hawaii vs. Longwood, 6 p.m.
» Saturday: Longwood vs. Miami (Ohio), 11 a.m.; Longwood vs. South Dakota State, 1 p.m.; Hawaii vs. Miami (Ohio), 3 p.m.; Hawaii vs. South Dakota State, 5 p.m.
» Sunday: No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 seed, 10 a.m.; No. 1 seed vs. No. 4 seed, noon; Consolation, 2 p.m.; Championship, 4 p.m.
» Monday: *TWCPE vs. Longwood 4 p.m.; Hawaii vs. Longwood, 6 p.m.
* — exhibition
After seeing limited action as a pitcher and at third base her first two seasons with the Rainbow Wahine, Robinson is working to prove herself at first base this spring and enters this week’s play as UH’s leading hitter.
She’s hitting .391, good for seventh in the Western Athletic Conference, and has made strides with the glove, thanks to an offseason spent honing her defensive skills and some timely tips from her predecessors at first base — older sister Kate Robinson and UH undergraduate assistant Amanda Taualii.
"(Taualii) pulled me aside last week and she told me one of her goals at first was to finish every play," Robinson said, "because the fielders are out there working hard and first base is there to finish the play and stop everything. I took up that mentality, too. Just finish every play and make every stop."
Robinson looks to continue her run of solid play when the Rainbow Wahine (16-4) — ranked 14th in this week’s USA Today/NFCA Top 25 and 17th in the ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings — face the Tokyo Women’s College of Physical Education in an exhibition today at 6 p.m. at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
Today’s game begins a stretch of seven games over the next five days. UH faces Longwood, Miami (Ohio) and South Dakota State in the Pepsi Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament tomorrow through Sunday. The Wahine also play a single game against Longwood on Monday.
Robinson, an all-state pitcher at Moanalua, began her UH career as pitcher/first baseman and spent last year backing up Melissa Gonzalez at third. She requested a move back to first in the offseason and split time with Makani Duhaylonsod-Kaleimamahu over the first eight games of the season.
She went 3-for-12 at the plate and drove in one run as a part-timer. She has since started each of the past 12, hitting .441 with 10 RBIs over that span.
"In the beginning of the season, it was still iffy and I found myself playing a little scared because I didn’t want to make errors and get pulled out," Robinson said. "It’s given me a lot of confidence and made me more aggressive."
UH head coach Bob Coolen pointed to Robinson’s first at-bat in a 6-1 win over Stanford on Feb. 19 in Las Vegas as an early turning point in her junior season.
"We gave her a hit-and-run sign and she probably hit the hardest ball of her career," Coolen said. "It was a line shot down the (left-field) line and opened that game up for us.
"From that point on she went on a tear. She just felt really confident."
Robinson followed her 3-for-3 performance against Stanford by driving in three runs in a mercy-rule win over Cal State Northridge, the last two coming on the first home run of her career.
In a doubleheader against South Dakota State and Weber State last Saturday, she went 4-for-5 with five RBIs, and ended the weekend being selected to the Bank of Hawaii Invitational’s all-tournament team.
While she produced with the bat, Robinson’s defense was a bit shaky at times, particularly on low throws. So Coolen set up a pitching machine to fire "70 mile-an-hour screamers" at the feet of the UH first basemen during a practice last week. Judging by the nifty backhanded pick Robinson made on a low throw on Sunday, the drill worked.
"It was just a lot of repetition and it definitely helped me out because that’s what I needed to work on," she said.
Robinson’s surge actually began in the fall, when she hit close to .600 in scrimmages and exhibitions. She capped the fall by hitting a home run off of sister Kate, who now plays professionally in Italy, in UH’s alumnae game.
While following her sister, an NFCA second-team All-American in 2007, is bound to raise comparisons, one of Sarah Robinson’s goals is to establish her own niche in the program.
Even so, "she is an inspiration because she did achieve a lot in her time here," Sarah said of her sister. "She had a breakout junior season and that’s what I want to accomplish."