By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
Welcome to Wall-y World.
The closer outfield wall at Rainbow Stadium seems to have brought a sense of normalcy for those who play there.
The wall is 15 feet closer from the original dimensions of 400 feet to center, 380 to the alleys and 340 down the lines. Also, the new wall is two feet shorter than the old 12-foot high wall.
"I think it makes the game more realistic," Sacramento State coach John Smith said after the weekend series against UH. "Its going to be the same for both sides. For a team that doesnt play on turf all the time, I think it probably helps those teams coming (here) and doesnt help as much the Hawaii guys because theyre used to it."
Smiths own player, Tim Maghan, owns the distinction of hitting the first homer over the new wall. He did it during Sundays 11-8 win over the Rainbows. Hawaiis Patrick Scalabrini put one out in the ninth, the first fence-clearing clout by a Rainbow since Wade Taguchi did it on April 16, 1999. Both of Saturdays homers were short of the original wall.
Whether more home runs are hit as a result of the closer distance remains to be seen. The ball simply hasnt carried well over the years and a home run at Rainbow Stadium is a home run at just about any park.
"Its going to take a pretty good rip to get it out of here," Smith said.
But it appears that triples and scoring from first on doubles are not as automatic as in the past. The double is affected in several ways.
No triples were hit in the three-game series between UH and Sacramento State, but five ground-rule doubles were hit on Sunday. All would have been regular doubles, possibly triples, against the old wall because none were long enough to hop over the old fence and all barely cleared the 10-foot high wall. Each team lost a run because runners on first base had to return to third because of the ground rule.
Also, outfielders are playing closer to the infield because of the new wall.
Derek Honma, who led all UH outfielders with five assists last year, nailed one of the faster Hornet runners at home on a single in the series opener.
On Friday, the Hornets had the bases loaded with two out, but a one-hop, line single to right fielder Tim Montgomery netted only one run. The runner had stopped at third before Montgomery unleashed a strike to catcher Brian Bock.
Hawaii acting coach Carl Furutani credited his fielders abilities, not their positioning.
"You look at the ball hit to the right fielder and center fielder, those are the guys they held up (against)," Furutani said. "Those are the guys who have the great arms. You have Montgomery out there and Honma, who does a great job of closing in, getting rid of the ball. He has an accurate arm. They show em respect. Thats what I see with that."
UCLA (0-1) vs. Hawaii (2-1), 6:35 p.m. tomorrow and Friday, 12:05 p.m. Saturday at Rainbow Stadium.
The Bruins, picked to finish sixth by coaches in the Pac-10, lost their season opener last week to UC-Riverside, 10-6.
Among their top players is junior right-handed starting pitcher Josh Karp (10-2, 5.06 ERA), a preseason All-America pick. He is considered one of the top two college pitching prospects in the country, according to Baseball America magazines college preview issue.
The other probable starters for UCLA are Jon Brandt (7-5, 4.03) and Bobby Roe (7-5, 4.44).
The Rainbows probable starters are Jeff Coleman, Sean Yamashita and Gavin Garrick.
Coleman and Yamashita turned in strong five-inning performances in victories against Sacramento State last weekend. Garrick threw strikes, but some were just too hittable.
Loyola Marymount (1-0) vs. Hawaii-Hilo (1-3), 6 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday (2) and 1 p.m. Sunday at Wong Stadium.
After a weekend off, the Vulcans return to action against the three-time defending West Coast Conference champion Lions, who opened their season yesterday with a 7-3 win against Cal State-Northridge.
The Lions are led by junior catcher Kris Zacuto (.350, 9 HRs, 60 RBIs), who had a 15-game hitting streak last season.
Senior catcher Scott LaFountaine (Punahou 97) is on the Lions roster.
Hawaii Pacific (4-4) does not play until Feb. 22.
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