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Wahine will pack 17 games in 16 days

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With the start of the Bank of Hawaii Invitational, the University of Hawaii softball team embarks on its own version of March madness.

The Rainbow Wahine begin tournament play against Radford today at 6 p.m. to open a run of 17 games over a 16-day span, with just three days off mixed in.

Along the way, they’ll host three tournaments and face four teams currently ranked in the national polls before concluding the homestand with the opening series of their farewell season in the Western Athletic Conference.

By then, the Wahine will be more than halfway through their 2012 schedule and their position in the national picture will have come into sharper focus.

BANK OF HAWAII INVITATIONAL

At Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium

» When: Today-Sunday
» TV: None

» Radio: Saturday and Sunday’s UH games on KHKA, 1500-AM

» Admission: Free

Schedule
Today—UC Santa Barbara vs. Florida State, 3:30 p.m.; Radford vs. Hawaii, 6 p.m.
Saturday—Radford vs. UCSB, 11 a.m.; Florida State vs. Radford, 1 p.m.; UCSB vs. Hawaii, 3 p.m.; Florida State vs. Hawaii, 5 p.m.
Sunday—Bracket games, 10 a.m., noon; third-place, 2 p.m.; championship, 4 p.m.

For the moment, UH (12-0) — ranked 22nd in both national polls — is looking to build on the fastest start in the program’s history, following an 11-day break.

"I’m hoping they’re just as hungry on Friday as they were on opening night," UH head coach Bob Coolen said, "because we just have to put the 12 games behind us. (The homestand) is huge in a sense of posturing ourselves for what it is we’re shooting for. … They just have to be really mentally tough with everything."

After playing 12 games in the season’s first two weeks, the Wahine used their break to catch up on school work and prepare for the rigorous stretch to come.

"There are a lot of things academically we’ve been staying on top of," Coolen said. "It gave me a chance to go recruiting locally … and it’s given the young ladies a chance to get in the weight room and work on their physical conditioning."

Two UH players enter the week within reach of career records. Senior pitcher Stephanie Ricketts (7-0, 0.64 ERA) is one win away from tying Kelly Gentle’s career mark of 82. Junior center fielder Kelly Majam has 40 career home runs and needs two more to catch Kate Robinson for the all-time lead.

After this weekend’s tournament, UH will play Florida State in a single game on Tuesday. The Seminoles are off to the second-best start in school history and junior pitcher Monica Perry was named the Louisville Slugger Division I National Player of the Week after posting 37 strikeouts in four appearances last week.

Radford begins a two-week stretch in Honolulu with today’s game. The Highlanders, who went 38-21 last year and finished atop the Big South Conference, will stick around to play in UH’s Pepsi Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament next week as well.

UC Santa Barbara began the season 1-10, but won five of six games last week, including two victories over then-No. 23 Houston and two against WAC member Nevada.

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