Rainbows enter final stretch with shot at fourth
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
With the top three places clinched, that leaves the bottom three baseball teams in the Western Athletic Conference an incentive entering the final week of the regular season: fourth place.
Mathematically, the University of Hawai'i needs to sweep the three-game weekend series at San Jose State to guarantee at least a share of fourth place.
Realistically, though, taking two of three probably will be adequate.
The Rainbows (28-24 overall, 9-18 WAC) are tied for fifth with Louisiana Tech (17-32-1, 9-18), both a half-game back of the fourth-place Spartans (24-30, 9-17). San Jose State and Nevada will be a game shy of the rest of the WAC because they won't make up a rainout.
Why would taking two of three still work for Hawai'i?
Nevada is playing at Louisiana Tech. Even though Baseball America has already projected the second-place Wolf Pack (30-23, 17-9) as an NCAA regional team, 32 or 33 wins looks more convincing. WAC champion Rice has secured a berth and is playing third-place Fresno State (29-27, 13-14) this weekend.
By playing a motivated Wolf Pack, that makes Louisiana Tech's quest for fourth place tougher, leaving UH's showdown with San Jose State as the probable clincher for fourth.
"They play well at home and have played well at home all year," UH coach Mike Trapasso said of the Spartans, who are 16-9 at home. "It will definitely be a challenge. We have to play our best."
The Rainbows are coming off a bye week because of final exams, so tonight's non-conference game at UC Irvine could not have been better timed.
"I'd prefer to get the mid-week game before the weekend series," Trapasso said. "We can shake some of the rust off and get after (the Spartans)."
Hawai'i will start right-hander Nick Ponomarenko (4-1, 4.42 ERA) against the Anteaters (20-35) today. Game time is 4 p.m. (HST) and will be broadcast live on KKEA AM 1420. UC Irvine is expected to start freshman right-hander Chris Nicoll (0-2, 4.46).
Trapasso said Ponomarenko will pitch three to four innings. He plans to let relievers throw an inning to give them work because of one-week layoff.