Hawaii tops WAC honors Hostility, pride at Wac banquet
An ace, a pair of top-of-the-order hitters and a king of motivation helped the Hawai'i softball team earn a full house of Western Athletic Conference honors yesterday.
Sophomore Stephanie Ricketts was named the league's pitcher of the year.
The Nos. 1 and 2 batters — center fielder Kelly Majam and shortstop Jessica Iwata — were selected as the WAC's top freshman and player, respectively.
And Bob Coolen, who cobbled together a lineup that is on track to break the national home-run record, was chosen as coach of the year.
What's more, Ricketts, Majam, Iwata, third baseman Melissa Gonzalez and designated player Jenna Rodriguez were named to the All-WAC first team.
First baseman Amanda Tauali'i was selected to the second team.
"We won in the regular season," Ricketts said, a reference to the Rainbows' 19-1 WAC record, and "that showed with the individual awards."
Ricketts was admittedly "pressing" early in the season. In non-conference games, she was 9-6 with a 2.68 ERA. But she dominated the WAC, going 13-0 with a 1.55 ERA.
"When I saw how good our team could be, I was really loose," said Ricketts, who will face her hometown San Jose State today in the WAC Tournament in Las Cruces, N.M.
Majam and Iwata are both freshmen, and each could have won the other's award.
Majam has slammed a school-record 25 home runs, a ratio of one every 6.88 at-bats.
Majam and Iwata are both hitting .395. Iwata has hit 16 home runs; in all, the Rainbows have 128 homers, needing seven more to claim the NCAA's single-season record.
"I like having her hit behind me," Majam said. "It's like having a second leadoff hitter."
Majam bats left-handed; Iwata hits right-handed. Both have small-town roots.
Majam was raised in Pine Valley, Calif., a no-stoplight town on the mountainside edge of San Diego County. Her high school drew students from seven small towns. The multiplex was a 30-minute drive away; it took 40 minutes to reach the mall. In that environment, she developed the powerful swing.
Iwata was raised in Lihu'e, where she was a diamond on the diamond. Iwata made a seamless transition to NCAA softball.
She said she is boosted by her family. Her father attended most of the games at Rainbow Wahine Stadium, usually armed with bags of goodies.
"He's always bringing all kinds of desserts," Iwata said. "The players from the Mainland always ask, 'What's this?' "
Both parents traveled to Las Cruces for the double-elimination tournament. "They're very supportive," Iwata said. "I love it."
Coolen, meanwhile, is pleased with the development of a team that entered the season with new starters at six positions.
Coolen said he was pleasantly surprised when the Rainbows swept the awards for the first time since 2007.