Cal State Bakersfield’s Chris Hipa and Cydney Curran are used to facing each other on the big stage. For two straight years during their prep softball days in Hawaii, Curran and Campbell got the best of Hipa’s higher-seeded Kamehameha teams at the HHSAA state championships.
The Sabers beat the top-seeded Warriors 5-0 in the quarterfinals in 2014. Then in 2015, Campbell won 7-1 in the semifinals before it went on to win first of three consecutive HHSAA titles.
When it came to their college careers, Hipa and Curran went from competitors to teammates. The two were the subject of Wednesday’s Hawaii Grown feature in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which can be read here.
Out of the 21 players listed on the CSUB roster, 17 hail from California, while two others are from Arizona. Hipa and Curran are the only two Hawaii natives on the roster. Hipa, who is now a senior, got to campus one year earlier than Curran did but credits her for making the move away from home smoother.
“My transition to my freshman year was kind of hard without knowing anybody, but my sophomore year when Cydney came, I think it’s all been uphill from there,” Hipa said. “I always had a family with softball but with Cydney, we both know what it’s like to be away from home and miss home, so that helped a lot with being homesick, and we still have our mainland family which is basically our softball team.”
Those feelings are mutual for Curran, who admits she occasionally jokes about their battles in high school.
“Her being from Kamehameha and me being from Campbell, we never faced each other until the state playoffs. I still tease her about it or we go at it saying things like ‘Campbell’s better’ or ‘Kamehameha’s better,’ so it’s pretty funny,” Curran said. “It’s fun competition but at the end of the day, she’s my teammate now and I think that’s really cool. Without her, I think my freshman year would’ve been a much tougher transition.
“Her being from Hawaii as well is really cool, it’s like having another sister from the islands to do stuff together with and have each other’s backs.”
And now, the two are trying to bring Cal State Bakersfield back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016. Hipa was a freshman back then when CSUB won the WAC tournament and earned a bid to the Los Angeles regional. The Roadrunners were eliminated after losses to host UCLA and Fresno State. But Hipa cherished the experience and wants this year’s team to play for something similar.
“I am very hungry to get back there because it’s my senior year,” Hipa said. “I think it was a surreal experience because we won the important games to win the WAC. Being at a bigger stage in regionals at UCLA’s stadium with teams that everybody knows and everybody loves, you can feel the energy once you step on.”
The Roadrunners are currently 10-13 but won their first WAC series against California Baptist to open conference play at 2-1. Their postseason chances will depend on if they can win the WAC tournament from May 8-11 in Phoenix.
“I would love to experience it. I love the competition and I love the fight. I love winning. I really want to share that moment with my teammates and eventually make it to the regionals,” said Curran. “But it comes with a lot of hard work and fight and I feel like we have that in our team this year and I know we can push hard to win. I really want to experience it.”
Curran, who hasn’t experienced postseason play in college yet, is doing her part to try to guide the Roadrunners there. After hitting .198 as a freshman and .204 as a sophomore, she currently leads the team with a .313 batting average as a junior.
“I think this year, I worked on just keeping it simple and having a ton of confidence in myself,” she said. “In previous years, I wasn’t as confident and this year I worked on just seeing the ball at the plate and not changing my swing or anything, just trusting what I’ve been working on and just doing my thing out on the field.”
Curran attributes that simplified mentality to her spike in batting average, and it’s also the same approach Hipa appreciates about her.
“I think it’s great because we are very similar yet very different,” Hipa said. “We have our own energy when we play. We’re not super rowdy and we’re not super out there, we’re just kind of calm and that helps me stay true to who I am when we can bounce that off of each other.
“It helps me just to reflect on when we used to play each other at home, reminders of ‘Hey, you can do this’. I feel like just having her presence here helps me a lot to connect back home and stay being true to who I am. She’s like a good reminder of that.”
As a freshman, Hipa garnered All-WAC honors and was on the first team as a sophomore. She’s appropriately listed as a utility player on the CSUB roster, splitting her time on the field at second base, third base and pitcher. At the plate, she’s hit three of the team’s four home runs this season.
For Hipa, whose deadlift of 391 pounds in November was a Junior world record at the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters Championships, she doesn’t mind the extra reps.
“In college, now you’re with everyone who has the same mind-set of ‘I’m gonna be here because I know I’m good enough to be here’ and with that mentality, you have to put in so much more work to keep up with the same mind-set of everybody else,” she said. “Everyone is thinking the same thing: ‘I want to go to the World Series, I want to win my conference,’ it’s all the same mentality. Your time commitment, it’s so much more extra work.
“You get extra hitting with your coaches, you get extra fielding. You hit at night, even if you just got off of class and you’re tired and you have weights in the morning. Because that’s what you know you need to do to get ahead of the team you’re playing next week, or the team you’re going to play in the future.”