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Kim carries a big stick for Sea Warriors

    By Jazzmin Williams. April 18, 2012 - 11:01 am

JAZZ.softball

At first glance, HPU women’s softball utility player Maile Kim cuts an imposing figure.

Although she doesn’t quite reach 5-and-a half-feet, what she lacks in stature she makes up in composure. Two lip piercings coupled with a laidback style and slight swagger in her walk make Kim seem as though she may even be borderline cocky.

Thing is, Kim is full of paradoxes. One of the heaviest hitters the HPU women’s softball team has seen in years, she is also soft spoken and humble. As much as opposing teams abhor playing against her, teammates adore her.

“As a teammate, Maile is very encouraging,” said junior catcher and infielder Pomaikai Kalakau. “Whenever I’m having a hard time or need someone to lift me up, she’s always there.”

Kim, a senior from Marina, California, actually preferred soccer over softball growing up. After the age of coach-pitch, her first true coach taught her basic skills and helped her to truly appreciate the game. By the time she turned 10 years old she was playing softball competitively.

Kim graduated from Notre Dame high school in 2008, lettering in both soccer and softball. During her tenure she was named First Team All-League and First Team All-County. A chance stop on a softball recruiting visit to University of Hawaii at Hilo turned into the decision that would shape her college career, as well as the face of Sea Warrior softball.

“I only came [to visit HPU] because my dad suggested I get in contact with coaches,” Kim said. “I came over here for the day and worked out with some of the girls and the coaches.”

“The way the coaches ran the workout session compared to other programs I’ve been involved was just more efficient … That just helped make the choice that [I thought] ‘Oh these guys know what they’re doing, they don’t waste time and they’re here to work,’” Kim said.

With a coaching staff and teammates whose work ethic matched her own, and the added benefit of a massive amount of extended family in Hawaii (both of her parents are originally from the islands), Kim found the team and school that fit her seamlessly. She was ready to get to work.

As a freshman, Kim had a breakout season. Starting 54 games, Kim managed to rack up 13 doubles and seven homeruns in HPU’s race to a conference championship. She finished the season with a batting average of .412 and a .612 slugging percentage. After season, Kim was selected both the PacWest Conference Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

“I’d say she’ll go down among the best power hitters at HPU,” said Brent Curry, HPU sports information director. “Her 2009 season was a season to remember.”

As a sophomore, Kim continued to be exceptional. Starting all 58 games, Kim posted 60 hits, six doubles, one triple, nine homeruns and accounted for 27 runs. She also led the team with 47 RBI. The 2010 season put HPU athletics on the map, with the Sea Warriors winning their first NCAA Division II College World Series title by defeating Valdosta State, 4-3.

“Looking back on it I feel like I’m able to grasp it more,” Kim said with a laugh. “When it first happened we didn’t know how to describe it.”

Kim received All PacWest, All Region and a spot on the 2010 Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division II All-American Team. Her 2011 season was no less personally successful, with Kim again receiving All PacWest honors.

Throughout it all, Kim stays stoic in her humility.

“I don’t really pay attention to the polls and stuff,” said Kim. “It was kind of surprising. I didn’t really know coming into the college program about all this stuff [awards and honors]. It’s just through hard work and the success of our team.”

On the cusp of her senior season, Kim has high hopes for her team. Along with citing a young team, she believes that they have the talent to make it to the top again. Being co-captain along with fellow senior and pitcher Breanne Patton has added to her list of responsibilities for the 2012 season.

“Maile is a hard worker and a great leader,” said junior outfielder Chante Tesoro. “She leads by example and I look up to her not only as a softball player, but as a person.”

Kim, an advertising and public relations major, would like to stay in the softball community after graduation, either by coaching or helping out. Until then she’s got to go back to work.

“At the end of the day you still lead on the field no matter what you do,” Kim said.