Maya Nakamura will relish Wahine softball senior night despite injury

May 2—1/2

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Wahine softball seniors are, front row from left, Piper Neri, Chloee Agueda, Mya'Liah Bethea and Ka'ena Keliinoi. Back Row, Malia Xiao Gin, Haley Johnson, Dallas Millwood, Maya Nakamura and McKenna Kostyszyn.


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UH's Maya Nakamura, a Roosevelt grad, won't finish her Wahine softball career at her spot at second base because of an injury.

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Maya Nakamura won't field any ground balls on senior night, but the support she will receive from the crowd won't change.

One of two fifth-year local players on the Hawaii softball team, Nakamura is among nine total who will be honored after the Rainbow Wahine play their final home games on Saturday in a doubleheader against Big West-leading Cal State Fullerton.

Nakamura, who has started 180 games in her career, suffered a season-ending injury three weeks ago against Cal Poly.

It was a huge blow to the team, but an even bigger blow to the Roosevelt alumna, who has remained positive through it all despite seeing her career end in the toughest way possible.

"Mentally, I'm in a good state, but of course, a career-ending (injury), as you can call it, is always hard to accept or comprehend, but I am very lucky that I have lots of friends and family around me that have made that acceptance process easier than what it could have been," Nakamura said Tuesday. "(Senior night) is something I always wanted to have and I'm so grateful I get to have it. It's not quite how I imagine it would be, but I'm still so thankful for everything that has happened and all of the support I have."

This senior class is one of the deepest and most talented in Bob Coolen's 33 years as head coach.

Six of the team's eight leading hitters will be honored as Coolen will have to replace significant portion of his lineup in the offseason.

That process can wait another two weeks. For now, the focus is on celebrating this group while also playing the conference's top team in the Titans.

Cal State Fullerton (32-15, 18-3) leads Hawaii (19-20, 12-7) by four games in the loss column with six to play. UH hasn't been eliminated from the conference race just yet, but would basically need a sweep of Cal State Fullerton to have a chance.

"Anything can happen. The way that it worked out now, we still all have to play each other and we could be a very big factor in the end of the season as to who goes and gets the automatic (NCAA tournament berth)," Coolen said. "We're hoping we can just go out and be the spoilers and keep ourselves in it."

Nakamura and Ka'ena Keliinoi, another fifth-year senior who gradated from St. Francis before the school shut down, are two of the most versatile players who ever put on a Rainbow Wahine jersey.

Nakamura started at five different positions as a true freshman before eventually settling in as the team's starting second baseman.

Kellinoi started at four different positions that same freshman year that was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and has played in seven different positions overall.

Like Nakamura, Kellinoi has started at least 180 games (183 total) and is a career .273 hitter with 23 doubles, 12 homers and 63 RBIs.

"Where I am right now is collectively just trying to go back to all of the memories of college and high school and just softball in general and the amount of support that I've been surrounded (by)," Keliinoi said. "It's been a ride, good and bad, and I appreciate all of the memories."

Coolen has had players in his past play multiple positions, but never to the degree that both Keliinoi and Nakamura have.

"Those two have probably been the most versatile that I've had," Coolen said. "(Nakamura) became probably the best second baseman in the Big West. We've been able to use (Keliinoi's) versatility whenever someone went down or someone was challenged and we were challenged."

Both Keliinoi and Nakamura got their playing careers inside of Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium off to an early start.

As a senior, Nakamura homered for Roosevelt in an opening-round win over Kaiser.

Keliinoi hit a home run as a sophomore at the field she called home in college before leading St. Francis to back-to-back state titles as a junior and senior.

"I didn't know I wanted to come here growing up, and then actually committing here was probably the easiest 'yes' I have ever said," Keliinoi said. "I wish I could probably do it all over again, and I'm sad it's coming to an end, but it's a chapter that needs to be closed and just moving on with my journey as myself."


At Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium

Hawaii (19-20, 12-7 Big West) vs. Cal State Fullerton (32-15, 18-3)

>> When: Friday, 6 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m. (doubleheader)

>> TV: Spectrum Sports (Saturday only)

>> Radio: None