Kaua’i’s Iwata Is Leading The Way
Duplicating last season’s magical ride all the way to the College World Series would seem nearly impossible by any standard. But if you’re Jessica Iwata and the Rainbow Wahine Softball team, the chance of that happening again remains as high as the number of home runs they hit last year.
“We proved last year that anything’s possible,” Iwata says. “The sky’s the limit for us.”
During that improbable run, the then-freshman shortstop from Lihu’e put up big numbers, including a .367 batting average, 65 runs scored, 18 home runs and a record-breaking 21 doubles.
In Western Athletic Conference play, she led the team with a .488 batting average with 39 hits, 12 doubles, 11 home runs and 32 RBI. This barrage of talent led her to becoming the first Rainbow Wahine to be named National Player of the Week.
Other accolades came pouring in, including first-team All-WAC, WAC Player of the Year, WAC All-Tournament team and second team All-West Region. She was also named to the 2010 USA Softball Women’s Futures National Team.
“It was an amazing season, not only for me, but for the team as well,” Iwata says.
If there’s any indication so far this season about what to expect come playoff time, the Rainbow Wahine are giving everyone chicken skin once again, as they enjoy a healthy national ranking.
And guess who’s leading the way? It’s none other than Jessica Iwata.
As of this writing, the sophomore is second on the squad, hitting .352, with a team-high 19 runs scored, eight home runs and 15 RBI.
Iwata’s red-hot start has led to an early season honor as WAC Hitter of the Week for Feb. 14-20, the second of her career.
During that stretch, she hit .526 (10-19) in five games at the Louisville-Slugger Desert Classic. She paced UH in the tournament, with six home runs, nine runs scored, 10 hits, 10 RBI and a 1.474 slugging percentage.
Against Utah, Hawaii was down 6-1 going into the sixth inning, but thanks to Iwata, the ‘Bows mounted a furious comeback in the final two innings.
She hit an opposite field, two-run home run that sailed over the right field fence in the sixth. And then, in the bottom of the seventh with one out and two runners on board, she battled at the plate, working the pitcher to a full count, before crushing a three-run bomb over the double-fence in center-field, onto the mountain behind the field to tie the game at 7-7.
Hawaii would go on to win this thriller 8-7, via a walk-off home run by Alex Aguirre.
In the 6-1 win over No. 19 Stanford, Iwata launched three solo home runs while going 4-for-4. It marked the second time in her career that she’s drilled three home runs in a single game.
“It’s a special honor, but I couldn’t do it without the support from my team-mates and coaches,” she says.
The “Humble Hitter,” as I’d like to call her, is at it again, helping the Rainbow Wahine Softball team reach new heights.
I guess it’s safe to say she and the team are picking up right where they left off.