An annual highlight of the Western Athletic Conference’s schedule, the Hawaii-Fresno State softball rivalry gets national attention today.
The opener of this weekend’s showdown between the Rainbow Wahine and Bulldogs — and the 80th meeting between the teams — will be televised on
ESPNU, adding another layer to the intensity.
“(The players haven’t) talked about it being on TV. But I think it’s a huge deal for the community over here,” UH coach Bob Coolen said.
The added attention could ratchet up the lively atmosphere at Bulldog Diamond (capacity 3,288), where Fresno State has won better than 83 percent of its games since it opened in 1996.
“Their home record is incredible,” Coolen said. “The fans get into it, the players get into it. Everyone from the ticket takers to the concessionaires, everyone gets into Fresno softball.”
Today’s game is set for 4 p.m. The series concludes with a doubleheader tomorrow starting at 10 a.m.
Hawaii (25-9, 3-0 WAC) enters the series ranked 20th in the NFCA/USA Today poll and 25th in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. But Fresno State (19-8, 3-0) owns the top RPI in the WAC, checking in at No. 21 this week with Hawaii at 49.
UH beat out Fresno State for the WAC regular-season and tournament titles last year, and although it’s still early in the league schedule, Coolen considers this weekend “a huge indicator.”
The pitching duels figure to headline the series, with four of the WAC’s top five pitchers expected to throw.
Hawaii’s Stephanie Ricketts (15-7, 1.30) and Kaia Parnaby (9-2, 1.10) both threw three-hit shutouts against Utah State in their last appearances and the Wahine reduced their team earned-run average to 1.34, good for ninth nationally.
Fresno State is second in the WAC at 2.25, led by Mackenzie Oakes (12-2, 1.61), recipient of the last two WAC pitcher of the week awards. Michelle Moses (6-6, 3.00) has 102 strikeouts in 861⁄3 innings.