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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 16, 2010

Rainbows driven by offense

BY Stephen Tsai
HawaiiWarriorBeat.com Editor

The Hawai'i softball team's drive for success begins with the vans.

During road trips, the team rents five vans, with each coach serving as a driver. The players are assigned to the same vans each trip.

This season, the Rainbow Wahine have set up an on-going competition for most home runs and runs. Players are affiliated by their vans.

"We always joke around, like, 'Do it for the van,' " said first baseman Amanda Tauali'i, who has blasted 11 home runs.

The competition is prolific, considering that the Rainbows lead the nation with 106 home runs in 44 games, an average of 2.41 per game.

Freshman centerfielder Kelly Majam is the national leader with 23 homers.

"We're all competing with each other," said rightfielder Kanani Pu'u-Warren, who has five homers. Pu'u-Warren and Majam ride the same van.

The Rainbows are hopeful their power surge continues when they host Louisiana Tech today at 6 p.m. and a doubleheader tomorrow at 4 p.m.

The Rainbows are fourth nationally in runs scored (7.34 per game). In Western Athletic Conference play, the Rainbows (11-0) are averaging 3.91 home runs and 10.82 runs per game.

Six of their 11 WAC games were abbreviate because of the eight-run mercy rule.

"It's wonderful being part of a lineup where everybody can hit the ball," Tauali'i said. "We're a dangerous lineup."

While the Rainbows have emphasized making contact, deep down, there is a going-deep confidence.

"There's no inning where the other team can relax," catcher Katie Grimes said. "As a catcher, I know that's rough. I know when a big inning is coming up and I'm behind the plate, I get nervous."

The Rainbows' source of power can be found in their work ethic. They insist their fall conditioning program was more intense than in past years.

"I thought I peaked last year," Pu'u-Warren said, "and then I pushed my maxes further than I ever thought, with help from my trainers."

Pu'u-Warren now can bench press more than 160 pounds and squat lift 220 pounds. During one session, members of the men's volleyball team watched as Pu'u-Warren and pitcher Stephanie Ricketts each power cleaned with 25-kilogram weights (roughly 55 pounds) on each side of the bar.

"We put a lot of time in the weight room," second baseman Traci Yoshikawa said. "Now it's showing."

The Rainbows also have spent a lot of time honing their hitting. During the recent road trip, in which they went 8-0, snowfall and chilly weather forced them to work out indoors twice. They loosened their arms, supposedly with an intense snowball fight.

This week, in anticipation of Louisiana Tech's Meghan Krieg ( 16-9 record, 203 strikeouts in 163 2/3 innings), the Rainbows had extended hitting sessions. Krieg has a biting dropball and mystifying offspeed pitch. The Rainbows worked on hitting change-ups, curves and screwballs.

"She has really good movement on her (pitches)," Pu'u-Warren said. "We're trying to be ready for everything."

The Rainbows will answer with Ricketts (17-6, 2.36 earned-run average) and Kaia Parnaby (15-5, 2.53). Jenna Rodriguez, primarily the designated player, has appeared in five games as a reliever, and is ready for an expanded pitching role.

"They're very good and they're very different," said Grimes, who calls all of the pitches. "They have different attitudes and different styles."