Rainbows must stay ahead of the Anteaters
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Hawai'i will not want to fall behind, especially late, against UC Irvine this weekend.
The Rainbows (3-1) start a three-game series tonight against the Anteaters (3-1). UCI, picked to finish third in the Big West, has one of the best closers in the nation in junior right-hander Blair Erickson. He notched his 28th career save Sunday against California. During the same span, Hawai'i has 25 saves as a team.
"He's got to stay consistent for us," UCI coach Dave Serrano said. "If he can do that, I like our chances this year as a team."
Erickson, who has 105 strikeouts in 75 innings in his career, throws between 92 to 96 mph "with a very good slider," Serrano said. He had 17 saves as a freshman.
Because the Anteaters have depth in the bullpen, Serrano said he would prefer to limit Erickson's outings to one inning.
"He can be extended for two or three innings, but I think with our depth, we don't have to do that," Serrano said.
The Anteaters took 2 of 3 from the Golden Bears and beat future UH opponent Loyola Marymount, 6-4, Tuesday.
Justin Cassel, tonight's UCI starter, did not fare well in the season opener, allowing five runs in five innings. He was the team's top starter last season at 9-4 with a 3.54 ERA.
"I expect him to turn it around (tonight)," Serrano said. "He's a pretty consistent right-hander."
Meanwhile, Hawai'i is trying to get healthy after taking 3 of 4 from San Diego State.
Outfielder Matt Inouye (knee) is probable, designated hitter Justin Frash (shoulder) is questionable and first baseman Kris Sanchez (hamstring) is doubtful for this series, UH coach Mike Trapasso said. All suffered their injuries during the Aztecs series. Inouye was 5 for 8 in the series with four RBIs, while Frash was 3 for 6 with four RBIs.
The Rainbows need better outings from Ian Harrington and Mark Rodrigues. They gave up five and six runs, respectively, in five-inning stints against SDSU.
"They both, at times, were very good, but also at times, made some bad pitches," Trapasso said. "But I will give some credit to San Diego State. Going back and watching the video, those guys can swing the bat. But we need to be better on the mound."
Tonight's UH starter, Steven Wright, is coming off a strong start, allowing two runs with four strikeouts in seven innings.
The Rainbows could tighten the fielding a bit after committing eight errors in the four-game series.
"We hope to settle down defensively," Trapasso said. "We're still going to play guys at different positions."
Joe Spiers, who played third for two games and second in one, might get some time at shortstop, where he played all last season, Trapasso said.
"I want him to get comfortable," Trapasso said.
Spiers, who hit .307 last year, is 0 for 11.
First baseman Luis Avila leads UH with three extra-base hits (3 doubles) and six RBIs.
Don Robbs, the radio voice of UH baseball, will miss the series as he recovers from a "medical procedure," according to a press release from KKEA.
Scott Robbs will fill in for his father, including the Feb. 17-19 trip to Loyola Marymount. The younger Robbs did play-by-play for UNLV baseball for five years.
Making the trip for UC Irvine is 2005 high school Player of the Year Jared Pate (Punahou). But the freshman right-hander will not pitch in the series because of tenderness, coach Dave Serrano said. Serrano is hoping to have Pate ready by the end of the month.
"He's really solidified himself as someone who was going to get some innings before he got injured," Serrano said.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.