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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 5, 2006

Rainbows approaching 'crazy time' of season

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Bob Coolen

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Who: Utah State (7-36, 2-12 WAC) vs. Hawai'i (25-19, 7-6)

When: 6 p.m. today; 2 p.m. doubleheader tomorrow

Where: Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.

Admission: Free

TV: KFVE (channel 5)

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Justine Smethurst

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The odds: Without earning the automatic NCAA berth by winning next week's Western Athletic Conference softball tournament, Hawai'i's chances of receiving an at-large berth in the NCAA Regionals are between "zero" and "fat chance."

More odds: If the Rainbow Wahine sweep Utah State single game tonight, doubleheader tomorrow in the final series of the regular season, they will have a good chance of earning a favorable seed in the WAC tournament.

The odd: If a protested game against Nevada needs to be completed and a postponed game against San Jose State needs to be played, the Rainbows might have to play 1 1/2 games on the same day as their opening-round game of the WAC tournament.

What's more, UH will administer final exams next week.

"It's a crazy time," UH coach Bob Coolen said. "There are so many things going on."

In sifting through the information overload, one thing is certain: the Rainbows need to win this weekend's games at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.

Fresno State, which hosts the WAC tournament, leads the league with a 10-2 record. San Jose State is 10-4, UH 7-6, and Nevada 7-7. UH has clinched one of the six berths in the tournament.

If UH and Nevada win their three-game series, San Jose State loses three games, and the stars and moon are aligned correctly, the Rainbows will emerge with the WAC's second-best record and avoid an early showdown against Fresno State. Coolen believes the Bulldogs will earn an NCAA bid no matter how they finish in the WAC tournament.

UH's situation won't be settled until after the series against Utah State. According to the Nevada Web site, the suspended game between UH and Nevada will be continued on Wednesday. Coolen said that date is inconvenient for the Rainbows, who arrive in Fresno that day, and should be played on Thursday, the start of the WAC tournament. "There's no way we want to play on Wednesday," Coolen said. "We might as well not even go to the ballpark. We're going to be so out of it after taking the red-eye (flight)."

San Jose State also might want to play a make-up game if it will improve its seeding. Last month, the Spartans and Rainbows were scheduled to play three games in two days in Hawai'i. But heavy rain postponed play that Friday and Saturday. UH wanted to play a tripleheader on Sunday, but the Spartans only wanted to play two games. UH ended up winning the doubleheader.

Coolen said the Rainbows' season will come down to the WAC tournament. "That's our only hope (for an NCAA berth)," he said. "We don't have enough victories. We don't have enough quality wins. We need to win the tournament to get the automatic berth."

UH freshman right-hander Justine Smethurst (12-10, 1.89 earned-run average) will start tonight. After evaluating Utah State's lineup tonight, the UH coaches will determine tomorrow's starters. Coolen said it is likely Smethurst will pitch in one of tomorrow's games.

After a season-long shuffle, Coolen has settled on this batting order: shortstop Valana Manuma, third baseman Clare Warwick, leftfielder Brandi Peiler, first baseman Tyleen Tausaga (eight homers), rightfielder Tanisha Milca, centerfielder Kaulana Gould, catcher Kristi Yoshizawa, designated player Kate Robinson and second baseman Alana Power. Robinson, who threw a perfect game this season, might pitch tomorrow.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.