UH baseball team suddenly hard to beat despite being beaten up
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
Having won eight of its past 10, the University of Hawai'i baseball team is hoping to carry that momentum into this weekend's Western Athletic Conference series against Fresno State.
The Rainbows (16-18, 6-12 WAC) are at the midpoint of the conference schedule, 11 games behind runaway leader Rice (28-6, 17-1). The Owls' only WAC blemish is a 4-3 loss to the Rainbows on March 10.
"I like the way we're playing now," UH acting coach Carl Furutani said. "We're finally playing together, things are falling into place. We feel good about ourselves going into the stretch run. We look forward to this weekend."
Based on their performance the past 10 games, the Rainbows' bright spot has been pitching.
Jeff Coleman has been consistent and reliable in all but one start. Sean Yamashita has won consecutive starts, and Wakon Childers pitched eight strong innings against defending NAIA champion Lewis-Clark State in last week's Rainbow Easter Baseball Tournament. Childers missed the 2000 season recovering from shoulder surgery.
However, there are other problems.
Injuries and fielding woes are complicating the lineup selection.
Outfielder Derek Honma had shoulder surgery Monday, and his status is yet to be determined.
Outfielder Nate Jackson, who had foot surgery earlier in the year, has returned but is not available yet. He was expected to miss the entire season because of the injury he suffered playing football.
Second baseman Gregg Omori has shoulder problems that affect what position he is able to play.
Infielder Lane Nogawa is bothered by a nagging hamstring.
Also, outfielder Shane Chan has left the team for personal reasons.
Add shortstop Cortland Wilson's fielding problems, and it is easy to see why the starting lineup is never a sure thing. Wilson has 15 errors, 14 while playing shortstop, and has recently played second base.
"Everybody feels for him," Furutani said. "They've been real supportive. Yet, we have to address (his problems), too."
But Wilson also has been the team's hottest hitter. Since prior to the San Jose State series two weekends ago, Wilson has raised his batting average 100 points to .373. He is third on the team with 18 RBIs.
What position Wilson plays this weekend will be determined by who else is available, Furutani said.
The Bulldogs aren't without their own troubles. Last week, four players left the team because of frustration over how coach Bob Bennett treated them, according to a Fresno Bee report.
One of the departing players was starting second baseman Tom Creighton, who was batting .289 and was second on the team with 28 runs.
Fresno State swept visiting Hawai'i on Feb. 24-26.
The Bulldogs' probable starting pitchers are Zach Minor (6-3, 3.61 ERA), Ben Fritz (2-4, 4.41) and Nick Moran (2-3, 3.65). All are right-handers.
In other matters, the Rainbows will make up a rained out game at Sacramento State May 1, two days before their WAC series with Nevada. The Rainbows were supposed to play the Hornets during their trip to California in late February.
Huskies in Hilo: The Vulcans hope to get back on the winning track in a four-game non-conference series with Washington (14-10, 2-7 Pacific 10).
A single game will be played at 6 p.m. Friday, a doubleheader at 1 p.m. Saturday and a single game at 1 p.m. Sunday. All games are at Wong Stadium.
Road Warriors: The Sea Warriors travel to California for seven games in as many days.
They open Sunday with a doubleheader at Cal State-Stanislaus. After an off day Monday, they play single games April 10 and 11 at Cal State-Chico, and single games April 12 and 13 at Sonoma State. On April 14, they conclude the trip with a single game at San Jose State.
HPU's season will conclude April 22 at UH-Hilo.