Freshmen will fill roles in two-starter pitching rotation
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
The University of Hawai'i softball team will convert to a two-pitcher rotation for this week's Rebel Classic in Las Vegas.
The Rainbow Wahine started Justine Smethurst, Courtney Baughman and Jessica Morton during last week's Paradise Classic.
Morton, the No. 3 pitcher, allowed one unearned run in a complete-game victory over Southern Mississippi in the round robin. But she struggled in the semifinals, lasting 1 2/3 innings, after a blister burst on the index finger of her right (throwing) hand while making her first pitch.
For now, Morton and Kate Robinson will be used mostly as relievers, UH coach Bob Coolen said.
Coolen said freshmen Smethurst (2-0) and Baughman (1-1) should adjust to the increased assignments. Coolen said Paula Blanning is available as a spot starter.
"Hopefully, Jus and Courtney will be what we need (as starters)," Coolen said. "That's why they were brought in."
Coolen said Smethurst and Baughman have the edge because of their "mentality as starters. They want to go out there and pitch the entire game."
Coolen noticed Smethurst's endurance when she pitched for Australia's Under-19 team two years ago.
Coolen said Baughman "gets into the groove and works more comfortably as the game goes on."
Coolen said Morton, who tries to overpower batters with riseballs and rise curves, and Robinson, who throws what is regarded as a "heavy ball," are best suited for short work. Coolen said Morton often struggles early as a starter, but has no such control problems when she enters as a reliever.
"As a reliever, she comes in more prepared," Coolen said. "Maybe it's because she's warming up so much."
The lineup will remain relatively intact, despite the struggles of the bottom-third hitters. They batted .128 (6 for 47) in the Paradise Classic.
Audrey Andrade will be this week's answer to the puzzle in right field, Coolen said. Andrade missed all of fall training after suffering a broken bone in her hand.
Coolen said he is hopeful Andrade will benefit from fan support (20 family members will attend the Las Vegas tournament) and recent tutorial sessions. Volunteer coach John Nakamura is trying to help Andrade flatten her swing; she relies too often on upper-cuts.
Brandi Peiler remains a candidate at both corner positions in the outfield, and designated player Julie Franklin might be used in the infield.
The Rainbows leave this morning for the tournament. The field also includes Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, Central Michigan, Tennessee and host Nevada-Las Vegas.
Coolen said he hopes to play a non-conference game before the Rainbows return next Wednesday.
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