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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 22, 2006

Rainbows blank Aggies in series opener

By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

In a battle of the injured against the ill, Hawai'i knocked off New Mexico State, 6-0, last night to take the opener of the Western Athletic Conference baseball series.

The Rainbows (28-11 overall, 6-5 WAC) moved into sole possession of third place after second-place Fresno State (8-5) beat San Jose State (5-5), 5-3, last night. First-place Louisiana Tech (9-3) defeated Sacramento State (6-7), 10-7.

The Rainbows played without outfielder Jorge Franco because of a lingering flu that shelved him since last weekend's series at Nevada. He is not even on the 25-player series roster. Hawai'i also likely will be without second baseman Joe Spiers, who twisted his right ankle during pregame warmups. Outfielder and lead-off hitter Robbie Wilder did not play because he was feeling ill, along with a number of other players, said UH coach Mike Trapasso, himself feeling under the weather.

Meanwhile, the Aggies (14-27, 1-9) entered the series missing two-thirds of their original starting rotation, and are without the league's leading hitter, Luke Hopkins, who has a hamstring injury.

Still, the games must go on and UH starter Steven Wright (7-2) had his fastball working and collaborated with Tyler Davis to hand the Aggies their first shutout of the season. Wright pitched three-hit ball over seven innings, striking out 11 against two walks. Davis added two innings, allowing only a ninth-inning double. It was the team's third shutout of the season, but the first in nine innings; one came in a scheduled seven-inning game (3-0 vs. UC Santa Barbara) and the other in a rain-shortened five-inning affair (3-0 vs. Western Illinois), both started by tonight's starter, Justin Costi.

It was a strange duel between Wright and NMSU starter Kyle McFadden (1-5), who ended up getting tagged for four runs, six hits and five walks with five strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

While Wright had his stuff, McFadden struggled through the first two innings. McFadden walked two and hit a batter to load the bases in the first and set up Luis Avila's sacrifice fly to left, but the next two batters stranded runners in scoring position.

In the second, McFadden gave up a lead-off double to Kris Sanchez, and hit Ryan Asato and Eli Christensen to load the bases, but Hawai'i failed to score after Sanchez was picked off at third. McFadden then added two more scoreless innings.

"His pitches were slow and we just couldn't adjust," Avila said of McFadden. "He threw a lot of off-speed. He was really pitching good."

At least until the fifth, when the Rainbows managed to score three, all with two outs. Matt Inouye's RBI single was followed by Esteban Lopez's two-run double.

But it was Wright holding that 1-0 lead until that inning.

"I just had to keep the momentum going," said Wright, who used 119 pitches. "Sooner or later, we were going to score some runs."

Wright dominated from the start, striking out eight of the first 10 batters. He didn't let a fortuitous double by Derek Maytubby in the second bother him. It was a fly to left-center, and it appeared left fielder Asato had a bead on the ball. Asato, however, looked toward center fielder Derek DuPree, and the ball fell between them. Otherwise, Wright retired the side in order three times. The most runners he allowed was two on two occasions. In the fifth, Patrick Fields singled with one out, and two batters later, Joseph Godinez also singled. But Wright got Jeremy Uhl to foul out to first to end the inning. In the seventh, Wright walked Fields and hit Adam Harvey with a pitch, but struck out Godinez and got pinch hitter Jason Rodriguez to ground out to end the inning.

Between Wright and Davis, no New Mexico State player reached third base.

Tonight's game has been moved to 5:30 p.m., an hour earlier than usual to accommodate traffic concerns because of the Hawai'i-UCLA men's volleyball match at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at skaneshiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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