Storm washes out UH opener HPU wins 1-0 in 10 innings
• Photo gallery: NCAA softball regionals
By Christopher Walsh
Special to The Advertiser
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Rainbow Wahine will have to wait another day.
The University of Hawai'i softball team, which has been on the road for nearly three weeks, saw its NCAA Super Regional opener against Alabama postponed due to inclement weather yesterday.
Additionally, because today's forecast is for more of the same, with conditions deteriorating as the day progresses, the two games originally scheduled for late in the afternoon were moved up 5 hours — to 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Hawai'i time. Both will be shown live on ESPNU. If necessary, a third game will be played tomorrow.
Yesterday's first game of the best-of-three series was initially delayed by lightning in the area, with high winds and heavy rain following at the Alabama Softball Complex.
Officials had the option of waiting until 11:59 p.m. CST to start the game, but opted to call it at about 9:30 p.m.
By then the Rainbow Wahine had retreated to their hotel, which is a 5-minute drive from the field.
"The kids hadn't eaten," UH coach Bob Coolen said. "We didn't prepare to be there that long. They were drinking water and eating little snacks. We ordered some subs. They had something light in case we did play."
Then, nearly four hours after the game's scheduled start, Coolen was finally notified that the game would be postponed.
But all was not lost.
"Then we watched the Celtics (on television)," said Coolen, who was raised in Massachusetts.
Organizers hope to minimize the chances of the series extending beyond tomorrow because the College World Series is scheduled to start Thursday. Storms can be common in the region this time of year, and are in the forecast for every day next week.
Alabama (51-9), the top-seeded team in the tournament, had a capacity crowd before the storm hit, and a couple of hundred fans were still waiting around hours later.
But the crowds eventually yielded to the clouds.
With lightning in the area, the game's start was automatically delayed. In anticipation of a storm, the grounds crew placed a tarp over the entire playing surface.
Later, strong winds gusted from the Northeast. The grounds crew then drove golf carts and cars onto the tarp to hold it down.
By then, the Crimson Tide had retreated to the team clubhouse and the 16th-seeded Rainbow Wahine (44-13) to their vans to wait out the delay.
After about 20 minutes, Coolen recalled: "No one would come and tell us anything. That's when I tried to find an NCAA rep, and I could not find one."
Once it became clear that the wait could be long, Coolen decided to send his team back to the hotel.
Hawai'i has been on the road since May 10, when it left for the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Las Cruces, N.M. The Rainbow Wahine then moved on to last week's Stanford Regional, which they won to earn a berth in the Alabama Super Regional.
"Not having to worry about school work is nice," center fielder Kelly Majam said during a press conference Thursday. "The first week when we were in the WAC tournament a lot of girls had finals.
"Right now though, it's fun. We enjoy ourselves. We get to hang out a lot together, and we enjoy spending time together."
Hawai'i also had an extended trip in 2007, where it eventually lost to host Tennessee in a Super Regional.
"When we won it (a Regional) last time at UCLA, we were in limbo without a hotel, not knowing where to go or what to do," Coolen said at Thursday's press conference. "This time we were prepared for it. Our seniors were there last time as freshmen, they experienced the ride."