UH Softball
Rainbow Wahine fall to No. 8 Huskies in season opener


 



» ;Box score (from Hawaii Athletics)

MANOA — There was no wiping the smile off of Nawai Kaupe's face Thursday night. No, not even in a blowout.

Led by a dominant pitching performance by All-American Gabbie Plain, No. 8 Washington pulled away from host Hawaii for an 8-0 win in five innings on a cool evening at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.

It was the season-opener for Hawaii (0-1), while the Huskies (14-2) have won eight of their last nine.

The Rainbow Wahine were playing their first game since March 11, 2020. They swept a trio of exhibitions against Division-II Chaminade last weekend.

"In a year, for us to play, was amazing to get all this off and running and stuff, yeah, it's great to be able to just get going," said UH coach Bob Coolen.

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Plain, a 6-foot senior from Australia, was in command all night. She struck out 11 batters, walked none and was an out away from a perfect game. She set down the first 14 Rainbow Wahine she faced before pinch hitter Mikaela Gandia-Mak lined a single back up in the middle with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Coolen knows Plain well. He tried to recruit her to UH four years ago, but knew that it would be a long shot.

"I knew she was going to go to a Power-5," Coolen said.

When Plain came for her official visit to Hawaii, she had already given a verbal commitment to the Huskies.

Coolen saw much the same savviness out of Plain Thursday night that he did four years ago.

"She's the same. Her rise ball is just a waste pitch for her, she never really throws it for a strike, it's just chase it if she gets ahead. Her down pitch, that one that really drops really hard, that's her bread-and-butter pitch right there," he explained. "She was living on the outside because the umpire was giving the outside, so they figured it out early and that is where she just needed to stay, but that inside-drop — she's the same pitcher."

Coolen added that he expects that Plain will play for the Australian national team in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Perhaps the only other individual in the Rainbow Wahine dugout Thursday night with as much knowledge on Plain was Kaupe, who played two seasons at Washington before transferring to UH prior to last year's COVID-shortened season.

"I used to hit against her all the time," Kaupe said to reporters after the loss to the Huskies. "But you know what? I can't help it," she added of her two strikeouts.

Kaupe, a 2017 Maui High graduate who earned First Team All-Hawaii honors as a senior, pointed out that Washington pitching coach Lance Glasoe is well-aware of her hot and cold zones as a hitter.

"So they know my weaknesses, they know my strengths, so it was basically just us versus Gabbie tonight," said Kaupe, who took several hefty swings at a few Plain offerings.

"I missed it. I missed a couple, but from here I gotta get better," Kaupe said.

Plain (8-0) struck out the first seven batters she faced. All but three of her near-dozen Ks were swinging third strikes. The only time she reached a three-ball count was against the very first batter she faced. Plain threw 45 of her 62 total pitches for strikes. UH batters were only able to put five balls into play all night.

Kaupe said Plain isn't overpowering, but she's effective at spinning the ball and keep it down in the zone.

"She's very known for her spins. She's not fast, it's just that she has great spin and that's what's so great about her. That's why she excels at what she does," said Kaupe, who accounted for two of Plain's punch-outs Thursday.

Kaupe, the Rainbow Wahine clean-up hitter, struck out swinging in her first at-bat — for the first out of the bottom of the second inning — and went down looking in her only other plate appearance, in the fifth frame.

Still, despite the lopsided loss to her former team, Kaupe, as always, enjoyed herself.

"It was good fun, you know? I think the rivalry about it was just more — it was different. It was more genuine, I feel like, than usual," she said. "It was good fun."

The Huskies pumped out 15 hits in all. They pushed across single runs in the top of the second and third innings on bases-loaded walks drawn by Baylee Klingler and Noelle Hee, respectively.

Washington sent nine batters to the plate in the fourth inning, when they scored four runs on six hits. Sami Reynolds belted a two-run home run to right-center in the fifth to close out the scoring.

Reynolds (3 for 4, 3 RBI, 3 runs) was one of three Huskies to record a three-hit game, along with Klingler (3 for 3, double, walk, RBI, run) and Madison Huskey (3 for 4, double, RBI).

UH freshman pitcher Jetta Nannen was tagged for eight runs — all of them earned — on 14 hits in the loss. She walked three and struck out one in 4 1/3 innings of work.

"She's basically a freshman, you know? I feel like she needed this, we needed an opponent like this to fire our butts a little bit, you know, get us ready for season-season, when conference comes," Kaupe said of Nannen (0-1).

Emily Klee got the final two outs in relief of Nannen.

Washington stranded 11 runners on base.

Kaupe is hopeful that Gandia-Mak's single to break-up Plain's perfect-game bid will give the Rainbow Wahine a little bit of confidence going the final two games of the series.

"Oh, definitely. It definitely gave us momentum as a team. I feel like with that energy, we needed to have that from the get-go, not just when someone gets a hit," she said. "I feel like if we had kept the same energy throughout the whole entire game, I think we would have been a different team — how we're supposed to be. It wasn't us tonight, but like coach Bob said, we'll get better for tomorrow. It's a great lesson tonight."

The teams play again at 6 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.

Any chance to get back out there is a good one in Kaupe's book.

She said, "We call it a ‘gratitude season,' that's what we're calling this season."

———

Aside from Kaupe, who recorded two putouts from her shortstop position, other local products who appeared in Thursday's game were:

Bree Soma (Maryknoll '16): The redshirt senior started in left field for the 55th time in her career and batted ninth. She flew out to center field on the only pitch she saw Thursday for the third out of the bottom of the third inning. Soma, a three-time All-Hawaii D1 First Team selection from 2014-2016, has played in 95 career games as a Rainbow Wahine and started 77 of them.

Sammie Ofoia (Saint Francis '18): The junior, who played at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville as a freshman before transferring to UH for the shortened 2020 season, batted eighth and started at designated hitter. She grounded out to the pitcher in her only plate appearance for the second out of the Rainbow Wahine half of the third inning. Ofoia received All-Hawaii D2 First Team recognition in all four of her seasons with the Saints from 2015-2018, including Player of the Year honors as a senior, when she helped lead the Saints to a state championship.

Dallas Millwood (Kamehameha '18): The sophomore and Nevada-transfer entered the game as a defensive substitution at first base to start the top of the fifth inning. In her only plate appearance, she struck out to end the game, which was halted after five innings due to the eight-run rule differential utilized in NCAA softball. Millwood received All-Hawaii D1 honors in all four of her seasons for the Warriors from 2015-2018, including two first team selections.

Maya Nakamura (Roosevelt '19): The second-year freshman and two-time All-Hawaii D1 First Team shortstop, started in right field and made three putouts defensively. She batted fifth in the lineup and struck out in both of her at-bats.

Kaena Keliinoi (Saint Francis '19): The second-year freshman and three-time All-Hawaii D2 selection, started at catcher and batted 0 for 2 with a strikeout from the two-hole.



Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].




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