Rainbows hold off USC in opener
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
A Southern California pitcher prevailed last night, except he was in a Hawai'i uniform.
Steven Wright gave up three runs in 6 2/3 innings and the Rainbows edged No. 24 Southern California, 4-3, in the opener of a three-game non-conference series.
A Les Murakami Stadium crowd of 2,475 — the largest of the season — watched the Rainbows (10-2) extend their win streak to six by beating one of the best pitchers in the country in Ian Kennedy. The Trojans (7-6) have dropped two in a row.
"I've known Ian for a while," said Wright, who is from Moreno Valley in Southern California. "It's not about beating the best pitcher. He's still my buddy. I'll probably hang out with him tonight. It's just another game to me."
Wright gave up nine hits and walked one with nine strikeouts. He was lifted in the seventh with a runner at first after striking out Cyle Hankerd for the third time. He had reached 106 pitches and UH coach Mike Trapasso lifted him for Rich Olsen to face Baron Frost, who was 2 for 3 and had driven in all of USC's three runs in the game with a two-run double and RBI single at that juncture.
"I felt I could've got him out," Wright said. "Coach made a good decision because we ended up getting him out anyway."
"I thought Steven was a little empty," Trapasso said. "He was at 106 pitches and Frost was getting good swings off of him. Steven was getting a little tired and we had all the faith in Rich to get the job done."
Olsen tacked on 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, allowing a hit with one strikeout. Darrell Fisherbaugh, who wasn't needed in last week's three-game sweep at Loyola Marymount, got the final two outs for his third save.
"This is how I like to do it," Fisherbaugh said. "It's like freshman year all over again. Packed house. But we weren't playing Texas; we were playing USC. It's a little closer to home Fisherbaugh is from California), so the adrenaline was pumping. I liked it."
Kennedy (2-2) gave up four runs (three earned), seven hits and two walks with five strikeouts in seven innings.
Jorge Franco and Joe Spiers had two hits each for the Rainbows.
The Rainbows supported Wright with textbook execution. Three of UH's five sacrifices led to runs. An RBI ground out by Esteban Lopez in the sixth against a drawn-in infield scored the go-ahead run.
Hawai'i took a 1-0 lead in the second. Jon Hee singled up the middle with one out and scored on Franco's double to right-center. The Trojans took the lead in the third on Frost's two-run, ground-rule double after Wright had struck out Hankerd.
Hawai'i tied it in the bottom of the third. Spiers led off with a single to center, advanced to second on Robbie Wilder's sacrifice and scored on Derek DuPree's flare double down the left-field line to make it 2-2.
The Trojans regained the lead in the fifth. With one out, Blake Sharpe doubled to right-center, and after Wright struck out Hankerd again, Frost grounded a single up the middle to drive in the runner and give USC a 3-2 lead.
Luis Avila doubled to right-center to start the sixth inning. Hee's sacrifice moved Avila to third, and he scored when Kennedy threw wildly past first, allowing Avila to score and Hee to take second. Franco's sacrifice moved Hee to third. With the infield playing in, Lopez hit a grounder up the middle to shortstop Hector Estrella, who threw to first for the out, with Hee scoring on the play to make it 4-3.
"When you play against a team like USC and a pitcher like Ian Kennedy, that is as good as there is in the college game, you're going to have to execute and you're going to have to pitch well on our end and you have to play quality defense."
Shortstop Spiers, who had three errors in last week's LMU series, made a nice play on Matt Cusick's hard grounder to the hole to start the game. Center fielder DuPree made a crucial stop of Sharpe's liner to the right-center gap when he made a sliding stop to hold the batter to a single.
That kept the tying run anchored at first with one out in the seventh, a runner that failed to score.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at email@example.com.