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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 7, 2006

Rainbows challenge No. 21 Bulldogs

By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Battle-tested, road-tested and weather-tested Hawai'i will face yet another test when it opens a three-game Western Athletic Conference series today against nationally ranked Fresno State at Beiden Field.

Game times are 3:35 p.m. today and tomorrow and 10:05 a.m. Sunday, all Hawai'i times. The games will be broadcast on KKEA 1420 AM. Tomorrow's game will be nationally televised on CSTV, a subscription channel on Oceanic Cable.

The Rainbows (24-9 overall, 2-3 WAC) take on the hot Bulldogs (24-9, 5-1), ranked 21st by Collegiate Baseball and winners of 17 of their past 18.

After taking 2 of 3 from San Jose State last weekend in a series that had two extra-inning games, it's safe to say UH is battled-tested.

After winning 3 of 3 at Loyola Marymount earlier this season, the Rainbows have shown they can win on the road. (UH was 6-2 in its last eight road WAC games last season.)

The Rainbows also survived five rainouts last month. But it was clear last night in Fresno, Hawai'i coach Mike Trapasso said after his team's workout.

"I don't know if we know how to play in sunshine," joked Trapasso.

Rain or shine, the Bulldogs have been at the top of their game. They are in the top three in WAC batting, pitching and fielding.

Statistically, FSU appears to be a match with UH in starting pitchers. The Rainbows will go with the same rotation as last week: Steven Wright (4-2, 3.57) tonight, Justin Costi (4-0, 3.82) tomorrow and Ian Harrington (4-1, 3.74) Sunday.

The Bulldogs will counter with 6-foot-8 right-hander Doug Fister (4-3, 3.00) tonight, left-hander Eddie Romero (7-1, 3.32), the winningest hurler in the WAC, tomorrow and right-hander Andy Underwood (5-2, 3.48) Sunday.

"They're as good as any three starters in this league," Trapasso said.

Since neither team had a midweek game, both staffs are well-rested.

The Bulldogs average 6.8 runs per game to the Rainbows' 6.2. Fresno State is batting .305 to UH's .300. But FSU has a distinct advantage with 31 home runs to UH's six and 55 steals to UH's 33.

Bulldogs shortstop Christian Vitters is fourth in the WAC with a .390 batting average, second with 33 RBIs and third with eight home runs. First baseman Kent Sakamoto is eighth with a .357 batting average and second with 14 doubles. Designated hitter Beau Mills leads the WAC with 16 doubles (FSU leads the league with 71 doubles). Outfielder Loren Storey is second in the WAC with 15 steals.

Hawai'i's hottest hitter is DH Justin Frash, who is second in the WAC with a .405 batting average and second with a .531 on-base percentage. Frash and first baseman Luis Avila are tied for the team lead with 31 RBIs each. They account for UH's six home runs, with Avila hitting four.

This is UH's only chance to make an impact head-on with FSU, as this is one of four home-only series this season. The WAC tournament also will be played at Beiden Field.

Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at skaneshiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.