Lady ‘Bows open Big West Conference schedule vs UC-Davis this weekend

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The University of Hawai’i softball team (21-10, 0-0 Big West) returns to the field to host their Big West Conference opener against UC Davis (15-17, 0-0 BWC) this weekend. The two teams will start the three-game series with a single game on Friday, March 31 at 6:00 p.m., followed by a doubleheader on Saturday, April 1 at 2:00 p.m. All games will be played at the Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. This week’s series will end a 27-game homestand for the ‘Bows.

It will be a battle of streaking teams with Hawai’i coming into this week having won their last six-straight games while UC Davis enters the series riding a seven-game win streak of their own. After 12 days off, the Rainbow Wahine look to maintain their mojo as they have been surging as of late, winning 13 of their last 15 games with the only blemishes coming on a 1-0 loss to No. 20 Utah (Mar. 9) and a 2-0 loss to UConn (Mar. 14).

The Rainbow Wahine pitching staff has been one of the main reasons for UH’s turnaround this season. Hawai’i is currently second in the league with a team ERA of 2.21, opposing batting average (.198), strikeouts (196), runs allowed (76), hits allowed (153) and walks allowed (153). All three of UH’s starters—Brittany Hitchcock, Dana Thomsen and Kanani Aina Cabrales—currently have ERA’s below 2.00. Hitchcock is second in the league with 104 strikeouts, innings pitched (116.1), and least amount of walks allowed (16). She is 12-6 overall with a 1.93 ERA with a career-high six shutouts this year which ranks her at No. 5 in the NCAA DI in shutouts. She is also ranked at No. 29 in the NCAA for least amount of walks per seven innings (1.02).

Thomsen has cemented herself in the starting rotation and is No. 5 in the Big West with a 1.83 ERA and No. 3 in the Big West with an opposing batting average of .180. Overall, Thomsen has a 7-3 record in 13 appearances with seven complete games and three shutouts in 69.0 innings pitched. Thomsen has 77 strikeouts to just 22 walks.

After getting off to a good start, Aina Cabrales missed a total of almost three weeks due to two different ailments which held her out of the lineup. But she has returned good as new, and after earning a tough 2-1 win over Purdue (Mar. 16), she has a 2-1 record in five appearances this season. Aina Cabrales has a 1.94 ERA in 21.2 innings pitched with 15 strikeouts and 11 walks.

Hawai’i third baseman Nicole Lopez currently leads the offense with a .365 batting average. She leads the Big West with seven home runs and is ranked No. 4 in the conference with a .656 slugging percentage. Lopez leads UH with 17 runs scored, seven doubles and is tied for the team lead with 35 hits (with Sarah Muzik) and 21 RBI (with Heather Morales). Lopez earned her first Big West Field Player of the Week award two weeks ago after she led the ‘Bows at the plate hitting .550 (11-for-20) with three doubles and two home runs for a team-best 1.000 slugging percentage. She also was solid on defense at the hot corner, committing no errors with seven put-outs and 18 assists.

Second baseman Muzik is right behind Lopez with a .361 batting average. She leads the team with a .400 on-base percentage as the second batter in the lineup. She has scored 16 runs going 35-for-97 at the plate with three doubles, one triple and 11 RBI. First baseman Morales has also been steadily climbing up team standings and is currently hitting .329 (28-for-85) with six doubles, five home runs and 21 RBI.

As a team, the Rainbow Wahine have a .294 batting average and they’ve already tied their home run total from all of last season at 25. The ‘Bows have also surpassed their stolen base total of 23 last year with 26 this season. Their six-game win streak is the longest since the 2013 squad won six straight towards the end of the season (two wins over UC Santa Barbara, a three-game series sweep at Pacific and a 3-0 win against Minnesota in the NCAA (Seattle) Washington Regional).

UC Davis also had last week off after going undefeated in their Aggie Invitational II tournament with a 6-0 mark. The Aggies posted two wins each over St. Mary’s and Princeton and single wins over Bryant and North Dakota. The previous week, UCD also notched a win to end their Aggie Invitational I over Iowa State to account for their current seven-game win streak.

The Aggies come into this BWC opening week of the Big West with a .273 team batting average with five players hitting over the .300 mark. Watch out for the speedy Aggies on the basepaths as they have already stolen 56-of-68 bases this season. Taylor Peters has been on fire at the plate, hitting .387 overall which ranks her at No. 3 in the league. She has a team-high 37 hits and is 12-for-17 in stolen bases with 15 runs scored. Brianna Warner is second on the team with a .343 average (36-fo-105) with a double, a triple, and a home run to go with a team-high 18 stolen bases in 21 attempts. Alexis Carney is hitting .330 (32-for-97) and has scored a team-high 22 runs with four doubles, a triple and a team-best four home runs. She is second on the team with 15 RBI.

The UC Davis pitching staff has a team ERA of 3.22 with 91 strikeouts to 74 walks overall. Katie Kibby leads the Aggies with an 8-5 record with a 2.68 ERA, 49 strikeouts and 38 walks in 91.1 innings pitched while Andrea Reynolds is 6-8 overall with a 2.47 ERA in 85.0 innings of work. She has 30 K’s and 21 walks. Sara Cadona has a 1-4 record with a 6.53 ERA in 30.0 innings of work.Games 32-34

Who: Hawai’i (21-10, 0-0 Big West) vs. UC Davis (15-17, 0-0 Big West)

Dates: Friday, March 31 at 6:00 pm; Saturday, April 1 at 2:00 pm (DH)

Venue: Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium (1,200) – Honolulu, O’ahu

Promotions: California Hotel and Casino is the series sponsor and will provide gift certificates for the winners of the popular “Ballpark Bingo.” Also,  t-shirts will be thrown into the stands during the fourth inning.

Livestats: Live in-game stats are available at the HawaiiAthletics.com softball schedule page

Series History: Hawai’i holds a 12-5 all-time record against UC Davis, but the Aggies won last year’s three-game series, 2-1 shutting out the ‘Bows in both games of a doubleheader, 1-0 and 3-0 on April 2, 2016.

Coaches: Hawai’i head coach Bob Coolen is in his 26th season at the helm of the Rainbow Wahine softball program and his 31st season as a head coach. At UH, he has recorded a 942-553-1 record and overall, his career record is 1,014-651-1. Coolen reached his 1,000th career win earlier this season with a 7-0 win over Charleston Southern on March 4. UC Davis’ Erin Thorpe is in her third season with the Aggies after serving as Boise State’s head coach for six years. Overall her career record is 272-374 and she has a 48-83 record at UC Davis.

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