HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's not everyday that a freshman gets the opportunity to play in the College World Series, but fore Nawai Kaupe, this past season was a dream come true - even though her Washington Huskies softball team fell short of clinching a national title.
Kaupe, a Wailuku native, was an All-State First Team as a senior at Maui High School. When she came to campus at Washington, however, she had to adjust to life on the bench.
But opportunity came knocking in March when Kaupe was forced into the starting lineup after an injury opened the door for her to shine. And shine she did.
"When I first got the opportunity, I was like, 'Oh shoot, this is for real now.," she said. "Throughout the whole entire season, I really grew and got more mature how to play, even on the bench. I really felt so amazing even to just cheer for my team and not be selfish."
Kaupe soon became a valuable fielder and hitter for the Huskies, often coming in to pitch hit once the team was at full health. She even recorded a hit in the College World Series against Oklahoma, a team that also featured a freshman phenom from the islands in Jocelyn Alo.
"When we were playing against Jocelyn, it felt like we were playing states," Kaupe said. "It felt like a regular home game, so that was pretty cool. It was nice to have that old competitive spirit between Oahu and Maui. It was really amazing."
Playing on softball's biggest stage was everything Kaupe imagined it would be, and so much more. Back at home on Maui to "get her tan back" according to her mother, Joy, Kaupe is already looking ahead to next season and will look to build off a successful debut season with her teammates, who are just as competitive as she is.
"That's what's great about everyone on our team; we work hard," she said.