Rainbows aim for strong finish in WAC
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
With a winning season out of the equation, the University of Hawai'i baseball team will have to find other benchmarks.
The Rainbows will play San Jose State for a three-game Western Athletic Conference series that runs tomorrow through Sunday at Municipal Stadium in San Jose, Calif.
The Rainbows (15-29 overall, 4-14 WAC) have lost two in a row. The Spartans (36-13, 14-7) won 2-of-3 in a WAC series against Nevada last weekend.
With 12 games left, the Rainbows can win them all and at least have a winning record in the WAC. And although they could mathematically place as high as second that would entail San Jose State and Fresno State having major slumps the fifth-place Rainbows have more realistic goals.
They can work to avoid the WAC cellar and have a realistic shot at finishing fourth. They are 1 1/2 games ahead of last-place Louisiana Tech, which they play at Les Murakami Stadium next week, and one game behind fourth-place Nevada. The Rainbows will visit Nevada, May 18-20.
As for this weekend's series, the Rainbows will use their same starting rotation of Chris George tomorrow, Sean Yamashita Saturday and Ricky Bauer Sunday. George (5-3, 5.35 ERA) has won five of his last six decisions, his last being a complete-game win against Fresno State last Friday. George beat the Spartans at Murakami Stadium March 22, allowing a run in 7 2/3 innings.
The Spartans will counter with Mike Malott tomorrow and Jahseam George Saturday. They have yet to name Sunday's starter.
The Rainbows will need better offensive production. Since beating Nevada 10-6 on April 4, the most runs UH has scored has been six (three times) in its last 11 games. The Rainbows won two of those three six-run games, their only wins during that span.
"We just need guys who can come in and drive some balls, hit some in the gap, get big hits," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "We have about three, four guys who can do that. If those guys don't produce runs, then we have to wait for that lineup to turn around again."
The limited batting threats reduce other offensive strategies.
"That makes things so hard because it makes me have to hold up from trying to steal bases at times because you don't want a guy to get thrown out and you can't turn a lineup over," Trapasso said.
Third baseman Brent Cook (.352), left fielder Scooter Martines (.310) and second baseman Lane Nogawa (.287) have hit consistently from the start. Gregg Omori has turned on since WAC play began, lifting his average to .292 with a team-leading 30 RBIs. His 18 doubles are one behind WAC leader Vincent Sinisi of Rice.
The Spartans might be six games behind conference leader Rice, but they are as balanced as the Owls. The Spartans are second in the WAC in batting (.301), pitching (4.14 ERA) and first in fielding (.974).
Second baseman Gabe Lopez leads San Jose State with a .380 batting average, which is a distant second to Sinisi's WAC-leading .416. Catcher Adam Shorsher leads the conference with 12 home runs.