Nothing can rival clinching over FSU
By Ferd Lewis
It is magic number time this week for the University of Hawai'i softball team but the enchantment possibilities are more than win deep.
The fact that the Rainbow Wahine (39-11, 17-0 WAC) need one victory in their final three-game series with Fresno State (33-14, 12-3 with a series remaining) to clinch the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title outright hints at the kind of confluence of events UH has waited 14 years for.
But who's counting?
Well, head coach Bob Coolen for one.
For most of their previous 13 years together in the WAC, UH has played a much-frustrated second fiddle to Fresno State. Of the perennial power Bulldogs' last 10 WAC regular-season championships, seven have come with UH a bride's maid.
For the Rainbow Wahine and, indeed, the rest of the WAC, the Bulldogs have long set the standard in softball. They have been to the sport what Brigham Young University was, in days of old, for WAC football or UH remains to women's volleyball.
The Bulldogs are the only Division I team that has been to all 28 NCAA softball tournaments and the only WAC team to win a national championship in the sport.
But it is more than just historical superiority that has defined this series. Feelings have run high and emotions deep. "They're our archrival, no doubt about it," Coolen said.
Just how deep those feelings run was on display when UH eliminated Fresno State during the 2007 WAC Tournament in a semifinal game and Tyleen Tausaga was inspired to dash around Bulldog Diamond and do some celebratory chest thumping.
The Bulldogs — and their fans — did not take kindly to the gesture. But it was an indication of the pent-up feelings from what has been a lopsided rivalry that the Bulldogs lead, 59-14, and the Rainbow Wahine's longing to make a dent in the Fresno State supremacy.
And therein lies some of what would make a title this week so special. Of the two UH regular-season championships (2003 and '07), none was won within 3,000 miles of Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. None within shouting and celebrating distance of their fans. One came in Ruston, La., and the other in Logan, Utah.
To win the WAC title outright, to do it against Fresno State and accomplish the feat on their home field "in front of our home fans would be something special," Coolen said. "Our crowds have gotten bigger and bigger."
For the moment, though, Coolen maintains "we're not looking beyond one game. We're taking it as a one-game-at-a-time thought process."
One would be enough, especially here and now.