Hawai'i lineup might face a changeup
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
The University of Hawai'i softball team enters its fourth week of the season with several unresolved issues.
The pitching rotation is in question beyond freshman ace Justine Smethurst (3-2, 3.78 earned-run average), who will start against Mercer in Thursday's opening round of the Pepsi Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
UH coach Bob Coolen has not decided on a rotation of two or three starters, nor has he selected a No. 2 starter from the competition between Courtney Baughman (2-2, 4.50 ERA) and Jessica Morton (1-1, 4.72).
Coolen said Kate Robinson (0-0, 2.47), who has been used exclusively as a reliever, might be considered for a starter's role.
"We'll see if that's something she wants to do," Coolen said.
Coolen also might not be finished tinkering with the lineup. During the Las Vegas tournament two weeks ago, outfielder/catcher Kaulana Gould bumped third baseman Clare Warwick from the leadoff spot.
While Warwick is a selective hitter and aggressive baserunner, Gould, a left-handed slap hitter, is better suited for the top of the order. Despite a .195 average, Gould is "stinging it," Coolen said.
Coolen said Warwick will bat fifth or sixth. There also is a possibility she might be dropped to ninth, where she would serve as a second leadoff hitter and resume her original role of batting in front of Gould.
Gould also is serving as insurance against catcher Kristi Yoshizawa's prolonged hitting slump. Yoshizawa moved from third base, where she started last season, and has been helpful in working with the inexperienced pitchers. But she has struggled offensively, batting .192 with six strikeouts in 26 at-bats.
Yoshizawa has been productive in practices and scrimmages. "In the game, she doesn't make good pitch selections," Coolen said.
For now, Yoshizawa remains the primary catcher. Coolen said he is considering using Gould in a platoon role behind the plate or having the designated player bat for Yoshizawa. When Gould catches, it opens the logjam in the outfield, where Brandi Peiler, Andrey Andrade, Tanisha Milca and Malamaisaua Manuma are competing for playing time.
Coolen said the break — UH last played Feb. 19 — has been helpful. First baseman Tyleen Tausaga, second baseman Alana Powers and infielder Julie Franklin are recovering from bruises in the area between their index fingers and thumbs. The injuries are a result of absorbing jolts from pitches striking the end of the bat. Because Tausaga prefers not to wear batting gloves, the equipment manager is applying an extra layer of grip tape to her bat handle.
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