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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 3, 2010

UH opens against Missouri

 •  All-America Rainbows

By Mike Griffith
Special to The Advertiser


7 a.m.: Hawai'i vs. Missouri

TV/Radio: Live, ESPN/1420 AM

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OKLAHOMA CITY University of Hawai'i softball coach Bob Coolen and NCAA home run leader Kelly Majam merely nodded politely as Missouri's coach lamented the challenge his team had at last year's Women's College World Series.

"Last year, we just never got our feet under us after coming back from California (for Super Regionals) and heading straight out here," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said. "It was too much of a whirlwind."

Whirlwind, trade wind, tailwind, headwind the Rainbow Wahine have experienced all over the past 3 1/2 weeks since embarking on their magical, historic postseason trip.

Hawai'i has landed in softball paradise, making its first appearance in the WCWS at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

"Getting to the field today and seeing it, we were just in awe," said Majam, whose 30 home runs lead the nation. "A lot of our team has been star-struck, just walking into the stadium and thinking about how many people are going to fill up the stands."

Sixteenth-seeded Hawai'i (49-14) plays ninth-seeded Missouri (51-11) at 7 a.m. (Hawai'i time) today on ESPN to open the eight-team tournament.

If the Rainbow Wahine win, they would play the winner of today's game between fourth-seeded Florida (48-8) and fifth-seeded UCLA (45-11) at 1 p.m. (Hawai'i time) tomorrow.

A loss to Missouri today means playing the loser of the Gators-Bruins on Saturday at 6 a.m. (Hawai'i time) in an elimination game, with another potential game to follow at 1 p.m. that day.

Not that this Hawai'i team would be deterred by a few more trips around the 60-foot base paths.

The Rainbow Wahine have covered some 7,500 miles on this trip alone, leaving Honolulu on May 10 for the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Las Cruces, N.M., and then on to Stanford, Calif., for NCAA Regional action. A trip to the Super Regionals in Tuscaloosa, Ala., followed en route to Oklahoma City.

Earleywine insisted his Tigers have an advantage over Hawai'i, having been here before, but Coolen politely shared a different opinion.

"This is par for the course, it's our M.O.," said Coolen, who's in his 19th year as UH's head coach. "We eat, practice, nap, relax ... they know the routine."

The Rainbow Wahine's Cinderella status quickly made them the media favorite.

Yesterday's press conference featuring the four teams in Hawai'i's bracket quickly turned into the Coolen-Majam Show.

"Aloha, everyone," Coolen began.

When the room stayed silent, Coolen informed the 50-some cameramen and reporters that, "You're supposed to say, 'Aloha' back."

Most everyone laughed, with the exception of the Missouri coach and player representative, who quickly found themselves overshadowed by the tales of the Rainbow Wahine's travels.

Coolen didn't get to the part about how there were some 30 final exams administered to his team while on the road trip, but Hawai'i's shocking Super Regional series win over No. 1 seed Alabama was discussed at length.

"After we got run-ruled in the first game (8-0), we were used to that crowd," Majam said, referring to the intimidating Tuscaloosa setting. "That first game, they were loud and obnoxious ... kinda rude ... a lot of chants and in our face.

"That loss definitely woke us up."

The Rainbow Wahine responded by delivering a wake-up call to the collegiate softball world, proving their legitimacy by out-slugging the mighty Crimson Tide in an 8-7 victory before scoring the dramatic, decisive 5-4 win that featured a two-out, two-run walk-off homer by Jenna Rodriguez.

"The time differences have been the hardest thing about all of this," Majam said. "But softball is softball."

If any team could appreciate Hawai'i's miraculous journey, one would think it would be Missouri.

It is, after all, known as the "Show-Me" state, and the Rainbow Wahine's exhibition has been like no other before it.