Tourney on deck for No. 24 Rainbows
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
With just a quarter of the regular season done, the newly nationally ranked Hawai'i baseball team isn't quite high-fiving it just yet.
Not with the established and higher-ranked Arkansas and Washington, and what might be an underrated Texas-Arlington, to get through in the First Hawai'i Title Rainbow Tournament, which starts today at Les Murakami Stadium.
After taking 2 of 3 from previously nationally ranked Southern California over the weekend, the Rainbows (11-3) pulled in at No. 24 in Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's weekly ranking. They are still on-deck in USA Today's Top 25 coaches poll as an "others receiving votes." They aren't in Baseball America's top 25, which USC dropped out of after being No. 24.
"While it's nice to get some national recognition, all that really recognizes is that we got off to a good start our first 14 games and nothing more," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "Our guys understand that. They're not going to be all that fired up about it."
With UH joining the national ranks, all it does is raise the level of competition in the tournament, which now boasts two nationally ranked teams. Arkansas (9-0) is 19th in Collegiate Baseball, 11th in Baseball America and 13th in USA Today. The Razorbacks play UH on Thursday and are scheduled to start ace Nick Schmidt (3-0, 0.47), the left-handed sophomore sensation who has allowed just three hits in 19 innings. Hawai'i is scheduled to start Steven Wright (3-0, 1.82).
The only way to watch the aces is to be there. Because of UH basketball, there will be no radio or TV coverage. The Rainbows enjoyed Saturday's crowd of 3,481, the largest of the season and the largest since Trapasso became coach in 1999. That game also was not televised.
"We're definitely going to need all the help we can get when you look at Schmidt's numbers," Trapasso said.
There also is a chance that UH could see Washington's ace Tim Lincecum (2-0, 2.71), who is coming off striking out 13 in six innings Friday in a 14-4 win against Gonzaga that landed him National Player of the Week honors by Collegiate Baseball. Lincecum is scheduled to start today's opener against Arkansas. He could come back by Saturday.
Not to overlook any team, Trapasso noticed that Texas-Arlington's 3-7 record is "not indicative of the club they are." The Mavericks have losses to No. 23 Baylor, Texas A&M (which had a 10-game win streak snapped Sunday) and Mid-Continent Conference favorite Oral Roberts.
"Of the tournament field, they've played the most difficult schedule early on, when you look at the teams they've played," Trapasso said.
The Mavericks are coming off being no-hit by Dallas Baptist, 9-1, on Saturday.
Trapasso has decided to start right-hander Tyler Davis (1-0, 1.93) tonight against the Mavericks. This will be the junior college transfer's first start.
"If he can give us three or four solid innings, we would be happy," Trapasso said.
Senior right-hander Justin Costi (0-0, 15.88), who has started twice, will start tomorrow against Washington. That will be the Huskies' second game of the day. They have scheduled Division II Hawai'i Pacific at 1 p.m. at Hans L'Orange Park.
Ian Harrington (2-1, 3.28) is scheduled to start Friday's game against an opponent to be announced. Mark Rodrigues (1-1. 4.64) will start Saturday against Washington.
Trapasso still has not decided matchups for Friday, which was supposed to be the semifinals of the tournament. Since Arkansas and Texas-Arlington must catch red-eye flights Saturday night, they will play each other at 2:30 p.m., leaving UH and Washington for the 7 p.m. game.
Arkansas and UTA were required to be in class by Monday. Having to travel the farthest of the three visiting teams, they were forced to take the late Saturday flights. The Saturday setup negated a normal championship format after the round-robin portion.
Trapasso said UH will play either Arkansas or UTA on Friday since the Rainbows will play Washington on Saturday. Asked if it would be better to play the Razorbacks for power ratings purposes, Trapasso said, "I haven't really thought about it."
Ratings Power Index (RPI) is used by the NCAA selection committee to fill out regional fields.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.