Exercising their power over fans
By Ferd Lewis
You won't need a scorecard to tell the Cinderella team at the Women's College World Series this week.
That will be the University of Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine.
Folks in Oklahoma City might mangle the nickname a little or wonder exactly what a "Wahine" is, but be assured they know UH and what the Rainbow Wahine bring to the eight-team, double-elimination field in their first visit.
The 49-14 Rainbow Wahine are the fresh new faces. As the 16th — and lowest — seed, they are the deepest of underdogs. Yet, they are also the power-hitting team stimulating imaginations. They are an intriguing mix and, for the uncommitted fans in the area, a team to rally around.
"Hawai'i is the Cinderella team and anybody that is neutral here will probably be pulling for Hawai'i for a couple of reasons," said Berry Trammel, Daily Oklahoman columnist.
One is that in a field devoid of homegrown Oklahoma teams, UH pitcher Stephanie Ricketts is a "local" tie as the older sister of Keilani, a freshman pitcher for the University of Oklahoma.
Another is that the remainder of the field is largely a rounding up of usual suspects. Of the eight teams, three each are from the Pac-10 and Southeastern conferences and one from the Big 12. They are, for the most part, schools that have worn a path to ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Consider that UCLA is an 11-time national champion in its 26th appearance. Arizona is making its 22nd visit and has eight national championships. Washington, the defending national champion, is in its 10th trip. Florida, Missouri and Tennessee are all making at least their third appearances. Only Georgia, in its second trip, is still learning the complexities of the freeway on-ramps and the places for the best chicken fried steak.
So there is an engaging novelty to this remarkable team from Hawai'i that opens the tournament Thursday at 7 a.m. Hawai'i time against Missouri (51-11).
It is an appeal enhanced by the Rainbow Wahine's holding of the NCAA single-season team home run record of 154 ... and counting. Truth be told, when the Rainbow Wahine hit the road three weeks ago for the WAC Tournament and subsequent NCAA Regional, there was a prove-it curiosity about their long ball power for those who hadn't seem them play. And hardly anybody had.
But in the 10 games on the Mainland, they have underlined the legitimacy of their hold on the home run record, the most powerful statement being the dramatic two-out walk-off blast by Jenna Rodriguez to beat Alabama Sunday and propel the Rainbow Wahine to Oklahoma City.
The Rainbow Wahine arrived in Oklahoma City yesterday as World Series rookies but hardly as unknowns.