Callee Heen excels in Division I competition

Former Balers great Callee Heen had an outstanding softball season at the University of Hawaii.

Callee Heen graduated from San Benito High in 2016, leaving as one of the greatest hitters in program history. Still, most players who are exceptional at the prep level fail to have nearly the same amount of success at the Division I level. The sweet-swinging left-handed hitting Heen is an exception.

Heen recently finished her freshman season at the University of Hawaii, and was one of three players on the Rainbow Wahine to start all 52 games. Heen ranked first on the team in walks (15) and hit by a pitch (9), second on the team in home runs (9), and third in RBIs (30), total bases (74) and slugging percentage (.521).

Hawaii finished 29-23 overall and 8-13 in the Big West Conference.

“It was definitely a really good experience and first year,” she said. “It went by really fast, and I enjoyed being on the team. It was a great group.”

Depending on which Hawaii pitcher was in the circle, Heen started at catcher or designated hitter. The 5-foot-8 Heen earned Big West Conference Player of the Week honors for the week of April 24. Over a two-game stretch against UC Santa Barbara, Heen hit two-run home runs in three consecutive at-bats.

In the teams’ first game on April 28, a 5-1 Hawaii win, Heen homered in the fourth and sixth innings. In her first at-bat in the next game on the following day, Heen went yard again. Heen was particularly excited about the second of the three home runs, as it traveled well over the fence before landing on the roof of the batting cages.

UC Santa Barbara wisely elected to intentionally walk Heen in her final two at-bats of the second game. All told, Heen drove in six runs in the three-game series, reaching base in 7 of 10 plate appearances. On Heen’s second home run, she was actually hit by a pitch, but wasn’t awarded first base because the home plate umpire ruled she had leaned into the pitch.

A couple of pitches later, Heen’s powerful swing sent the ball flying out of Hawaii’s home ball park. Heen likes the fast paced nature of the college game.

“The intensity level is great, and it keeps you mentally in the game,” she said. “It’s definitely different than the high school game, but fortunately it wasn’t too hard of an adjustment.”

Since Heen is on scholarship, she’s made sure to take her academics seriously.

“I haven’t checked yet, but I’m pretty sure I got all A’s in my classes,” she said. “Since my education is getting paid for, I might as well take advantage of everything college offers you. I’m definitely taking my academics more seriously than I did when I was in high school.”

Heen knew she had to be more disciplined off the field since college players spend a ton of time during the season practicing, working out and traveling for games. Heen, who is back home in Hollister for the summer—she made an appearance to root on the softball team in its quarterfinal game last Saturday—knows she has to work hard and come back to Hawaii in late August in the best shape of her life.

“I don’t want to let up,” she said. “I have to keep on improving.”

Heen has packed on some lean muscle since graduating from San Benito a year ago, and it’s made a noticeable difference in her game.

“I can feel it in my swing,” she said. “Squatting and doing all the leg workouts, that’s where all my power comes from.”

Heen’s good friend and last year’s teammate, Suzy Brookshire, still keep in touch regularly. Brookshire had an outstanding freshman season at Sacramento State University, becoming just the fourth freshman in program history to earn all-Pacific region honors (look for a story on Brookshire in next week’s edition).

Hawaii and Sacramento State actually played each other in the Feb. 9 season opener, a 5-0 Hawaii victory.

“It was cool to see her so early in the season,” Heen said. “Suzy and I talk a lot. Just seeing her do well and knowing she broke the (Sacramento State) freshman home run record is a pretty cool thing.”

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