On the field and in study hall, the Hawaii softball team’s spring semester might be defined largely by its performance this week.
As the Rainbow Wahine focus on final exams, they’ve also been preparing for a Western Athletic Conference tournament that will determine their postseason future.
“Kind of like in school if you mess up on homework or a test, when it comes to the final, if you get it right then you’re in a good place,” said UH pitcher Stephanie Ricketts, who took a final yesterday and has another on Friday. “Right now in this tournament we’re trying to put everything together.”
The Wahine (36-16) open defense of their WAC tournament title today against Utah State at Bulldog Diamond on the Fresno State campus. The winner will meet top-seeded New Mexico State tomorrow. The loser faces an elimination game.
>> When: Today-Saturday
If the fourth-seeded Wahine can repeat as tournament champions, they’ll earn the automatic bid and erase all doubt about their NCAA regional credentials. Lose twice before Saturday and they’ll be in for an anxious Sunday, when the 64-team NCAA field is announced.
“If you pass, you get an A and you move on. If not, you get a poor grade,” UH head coach Bob Coolen said.
“We need to make a statement.”
UH enters with a six-game winning streak, thanks to solid play in all three facets with timely hitting complementing the WAC’s top-rated pitching staff and defense.
“They’re playing a lot more relaxed and they’re understanding what we need to do,” Coolen said.
Kaia Parnaby leads the WAC in earned-run average at 1.24, followed by Ricketts, the reigning WAC pitcher of the week, at 1.56.
Offensively, right fielder Jenna Rodriguez owns an eight-game hitting streak, and shortstop Jessica Iwata has pounded opposing pitching the last two weeks.
The sophomore raised her batting average 41 points to a team-high .358 over the six-game stretch, with 15 RBIs. She’s also hit a home run in four of the last five games.
The Wahine swept Utah State (15-40) in Honolulu to open the WAC schedule in late March. After starting 0-6 in league play, the Aggies won three of their next four series to rise to fifth in WAC.
“Everyone’s trying to get that automatic bid,” Ricketts said. “They’re probably going to come out harder than they did in the regular season, but so are we.”
New Mexico State and Boise State have byes.