(Hawaii Athletics) - The Big West Conference released its 2019 softball preseason coaches poll with the University of Hawai'i picked to finish in fourth place. It is the second straight season that the Rainbow Wahine were voted to finish in the middle of the eight-team conference. The poll was voted on by the eight head coaches of the BWC. Hawai'i garnered 33 points. Three-time defending Big West champions, Cal State Fullerton are once again the favorite to take the title. The Titans received five first-place votes and 62 total points. Long Beach State is projected to finish in second place with one first-place votes and a total of 55 points, while UC Davis garnered the last first place vote and is picked to finish in third with 34 points, just one point ahead of Hawai'i.
The Rainbow Wahine return 15 letterwinners from last year's squad which finished seventh in the BWC with a 23-17 overall record and a 7-14 conference mark. Leading the charge into UH's 35th Anniversary Season is three-time all-Big West pitcher Brittany Hitchcock Hitchcock was granted a sixth year after last year's season was cut short due to injury. Hitchcock has a 55-38 career record with a 2.10 ERA in three-plus seasons. She has struck out 399 opposing batters while walking just 97 in 609.1 total innings pitched.
Hawai'i returns its top three hitters from last season: junior first base/catcher Callee Heen, senior third baseman Nicole Lopez, and sophomore outfielder Brittnee Rossi. Lopes and Heen were named to the all-Big West first and second teams respectively with Heen also being selected to the NFCA All-West Region second team. For her career, Lopez has started all 156 games during her career. She hit .306 last year and led UH with 49 hits while racking up six doubles, eight home runs and 26 RBI. She was tied for the team-lead with Heen scoring a team-high 26 runs. Heen was the 'Bows' top hitter last season, recording a career-high .333 batting average while also leading UH with 24 walks, 14 home runs and 37 RBI. Rossi started in 47 games with 49 appearances last year as a rookie. She hit .269 overall while going 32-for-119 at the plate. She scored 17 runs while hitting five doubles a triple and four home runs.
Hawai'i will play their Alumnae Game this Saturday, Feb. 2 at 6:00 p.m. at the Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. They will officially open the 2019 season next week as they host the Paradise Classic. Fresno State, Georgia State, St. Mary's, UT Arlington and UCLA will all be opening the season in Honolulu.
2019 Big West Coaches Poll Results
1. Cal State Fullerton (6) 62
2. Long Beach State (1) 55
3. UC Davis (1) 34
4. Hawai'i 33
5. CSUN 32
6. UC Riverside 30
7. Cal Poly 26
8. UC Santa Barbara 16