Bob Coolen didn’t need a cup of coffee to get going Sunday morning.
Even after the University of Hawaii softball team completed a run of nine games in eight days just the night before, the approaching start of the Western Athletic Conference season had Coolen up early on his day off.
"I was so amped up on Sunday I couldn’t sit still," Coolen said.
The Rainbow Wahine have much to be excited about these days. UH enters its 16th and final WAC season at 24-2 and ranked 17th in both the USA Today/NFCA poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25.
UH IN THE RANKINGS
Statistics and rankings as of March 18
The Wahine own five wins over teams appearing in the latest polls and began the week among eight teams with two losses or fewer in Division I softball.
Still, after putting together the best start in the program’s history, there’s a sense of starting over when UH faces San Jose State (16-16) tonight to open a three-game WAC series at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
"It’s great to hold on to what we did, but anything can change in the WAC," UH center fielder Kelly Majam said. "It’s good to win against ranked teams that aren’t in our conference, but if you don’t win in the conference you can’t go to the postseason."
UH, which closes a 17-game homestand this weekend, was voted second in the preseason WAC coaches poll, just behind Fresno State. But UH’s ascent in the rankings figures to make a series with the Wahine a highlight on the schedule for the rest of the league.
"It’s a good excitement because it’s our last year in the WAC and we know now with what we did in the preseason we have a lot of teams gunning for us," Coolen said.
"We’re not a mystery to anyone."
Opponents haven’t had much success solving UH pitching so far. Senior Stephanie Ricketts (14-2) and junior Kaia Parnaby (10-0) have turned in complete games in every start this season and lead the nation with a combined 0.77 earned-run average. Parnaby ranks first individually at 0.43, with Ricketts not far behind at 0.98.
"(Ricketts is) a trooper this year — she just wants the ball — and Kaia has accepted her role and they like that rotation," Coolen said.
Coolen has filled out the lineup card with the same batting order for all 26 games, and the Wahine lead the WAC with 6.5 runs per game. Their team batting average dipped below .300 after facing three ranked teams in last week’s Chevron Spring Fling Tournament, and Coolen hopes a break following a hectic run of tournaments helps get the offense rolling again.
San Jose State vs. Hawaii
"Now we’re back in the weight room, back on the field, getting back into shape. That’s something you lose when you play game after game after game," Coolen said.
"If we hit the ball hard, good things are going to happen. I’m not expecting it to go over the fence all the time, but we need to find the gaps, we need to find the holes. We need to put the ball in play."
Parnaby and San Jose State freshman Michelle Cox were teammates for the Aussie Spirit in this week’s series against Japan in the International Softball Challenge in Australia. They are both scheduled to return to action for the Wahine and Spartans in time for Saturday’s games.
Cox had a school-record 19-game hitting streak earlier this season and leads the Spartans with a .387 batting average. SJSU junior Amanda Pridmore (8-5, 2.21 ERA) leads the pitching staff after sitting out last season with a knee injury. Pridmore was on the losing end of a 3-2 UH victory in 10 innings in the 2010 WAC opener.