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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 20, 2006

On a mission to catch up

By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i second baseman Eli Christensen is batting .355 in the Western Athletic Conference.


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Junior college transfer Eli Christensen might be a newcomer, but he is actually one of the senior members of the Hawai'i baseball team.

Because he spent the first two years out of high school on a church mission, the Rainbows shortstop got jump into college life a little later than most of his teammates. He turned 24 in February.

"It's a lot of fun," Christensen of the ribbing he takes from teammates because of his age. "There are a lot of great guys on the team. Of course, they make jokes because I'm older and married. They always throw comments around, but it's fun."

While his teammates can poke fun of Christensen, Western Athletic Conference opponents aren't laughing. Although Christensen's overall batting average is .265, against WAC teams, he leads all Rainbows with a .355 batting average.

"He had some huge hits for us on this last road trip," UH coach Mike Trapasso said.

Christensen had a big three-run double in UH's 13-5 win at Nevada last Friday.

Although Christensen's bat took time to come around, he never let it affect his defense. His glove kept him in the lineup and his bat has finally caught up.

"I try to apply the same ideas that I have, as far as my defense goes," Christensen said. "If I committed an error, I just try to push it and not get caught up in it. I wasn't doing that offensively when I was getting out. I started using the same philosophy on defense and using it on offense."

That he was able to make adjustments might be attributed to maturity. The church mission in Connecticut out of Timpview High in Utah gave him life experiences most college freshmen and sophomores would not have gotten.

"I was able to have focus on the direction I'm heading," the junior said.

And getting married (to Lindsay) in August 2005 stabilized his life, he said. He is determined to obtain his degree in finance from UH with the hopes of being a financial planner for big league players.

"It helps as far I don't have to out at night (with other players), so I get sufficient rest," he explained about married life. "It's easier to stay on top of my schooling. I don't have the other distractions. I'm thinking of it along the lines of having to provide for my family (in the future)."

Yet, it is hard to tell what would've happened to Christensen had Texas State honored its scholarship offer.

"They kind of hung me out to dry," he said.

Texas State rescinded its offer after Christensen completed his junior college eligibility.

Christensen said he considered walking on at Utah, of the Mountain West Conference. But UH came through with an offer when Trapasso saw him playing in a summer league in Utah over the summer.

Meanwhile, the Rainbows will play New Mexico State for a three-game Western Athletic Conference series starting tomorrow at Les Murakami Stadium.

The Aggies (14-26 overall, 1-8 WAC) will make their WAC debut here, as well as their first appearance against the Rainbows (27-11, 5-5).

Tomorrow's game starts at 6:35 p.m., but Saturday's start time has been moved to 5:30 p.m. because of UH men's volleyball. Sunday's game is still set for 1:05 p.m.

The Rainbows will be without right-handed relief pitcher Rich Olsen because of a possible tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament (elbow). Olsen will out for the season and possibly for next season, Trapasso said.

"It's a shame," Trapasso said. "We feel awful for Rich."

Olsen was 1-0 with a 1.59 earned run average with one save. He has 19 strikeouts to three walks in 17 innings.

However, the Rainbows will return left-hander Myles Ioane, who missed most of his freshman year last season with elbow problems later diagnosed as a stress fracture. Trapasso said four magnetic resonance imaging tests did not reveal the fracture, but a bone scan ended up doing the trick.

Ioane was limited to 6 1/3 innings last year, but was shutdown in time to qualify for a medical redshirt, saving him a season of eligibility.

Illness is still affecting the Rainbows. Jorge Franco, who missed the Nevada series with the flu, still was unable to practice yesterday. Trapasso added that Ian Harrington and Joe Spiers also were feeling ill yesterday.

Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at skaneshiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.