'Bows re-energized heading into WAC
BY Stephen Tsai
For all that the Hawai'i softball team has accomplished this year — 22-11 non-conference record; prolific home-run pace — little will matter when it hosts San Jose State at 6 p.m. today.
The "reset" button has been pushed for the start of the Western Athletic Conference season.
"We all go back to 0-0," catcher Katie Grimes said. "The batting averages go back to zero. It's exciting. It's like a startover."
The dominoes face this way: The WAC record determines the seeding for the WAC Tournament, which awards the winner an automatic berth in the NCAA Regionals.
"This is like a restart," said freshman center fielder Kelly Majam, who is fourth nationally with 15 home runs. "I do feel we're ready. It's a new part of the season. I think this re-energizes the team."
The Rainbow Wahine had entered the 2010 season seeking a No. 2 starting pitcher behind ace Stephanie Ricketts, and establishing a productive lineup.
Majam, a blue-chip prospect who did not play last season after suffering a knee injury, redefined the leadoff position with her powerful left-handed swing.
Third baseman Melissa Gonzalez (.394 average, nine homers), who is healthy for the first time in a year, has emerged as a middle-of-the-order threat. Shortstop Jessica Iwata and second baseman Traci Yoshikawa provide rare middle-infield power.
And Jenna Rodriguez, who opened the season in left field, is thriving as the designated hitter.
The Rainbows also answered their pitching quest. Kaia Parnaby, a freshman from Australia, has become the left-handed complement to Ricketts. UH coach Bob Coolen has proclaimed Ricketts and Parnaby as co-aces.
Parnaby has been put in enough pressure situations, at UH and with Australia's national team, she believes she is capable of an extended workload. Parnaby has not started twice in the same day this season, but "I definitely can go back to back."
Ricketts, meanwhile, has developed confidence in attacking the outside corners, a bonus when facing slap hitters.
"She's throwing it hard, too," said Grimes, who calls all of the pitches.
Grimes has been helpful in expanding the pitchers' repertoire. The key has been transcending the pitches that work during bullpen sessions to the mound.
"You have to have them keep going with it," Grimes said. "I think it was letting the rust fall off a little bit. They're both pitching really well."
Ricketts also has managed to conquer her harshest critic — herself. She no longer lets bad pitches — or bad calls — affect her poise.
"In the beginning, I was having a rough time with that," Ricketts said. "Freaking out or making faces doesn't really affect anything. Why bother doing that?"