Rainbows shooting for WAC top seed
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
With first place still at stake, No. 29 Hawai'i will close out the Western Athletic Conference regular season with a three-game series at San Jose State starting today.
Games are at 3 p.m. today, and 10 a.m. tomorrow and Sunday, all Hawai'i times, at Municipal Stadium in San Jose, Calif.
The Rainbows (37-13 overall, 14-6 WAC) trail first-place Fresno State (15-6) by a half-game. The Bulldogs play at Sacramento State (8-13) this weekend.
Hawai'i can be assured the Hornets will battle because they, along with Nevada (8-12) and New Mexico State (6-15), are vying for the fifth and sixth seeds for the WAC tournament May 25 to 28 at FSU's Beiden Field. The WAC champion gets an automatic berth in the 64-team NCAA tournament field.
Idle Louisiana Tech (11-13), UH, FSU and SJSU have clinched tournament berths.
The Rainbows and Spartans (33-21, 12-9) are looking to rebound from their previous games. Hawai'i was stomped at San Francisco, 15-1, while SJSU was swept by Fresno State last weekend.
"We have always bounced back whenever we had a lackluster performance," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "We expect to bounce back. It doesn't mean that we're going to go out there and win, but I expect us to go out and play our game and compete like we have all year."
The Rainbows won 2 of 3 from the Spartans in Hawai'i last month. They both have strong pitching (UH's ERA is 3.72, SJSU's is 3.90) and fielding (SJSU's fielding percentage is .978, UH's is .971). Both are line-drive hitting teams; they have the fewest home runs in the league (UH has 12 and SJSU has 18).
When the teams played in Honolulu, the Spartans won the series opener, 7-5, in 12 innings. The Rainbows won the next night, 6-5, in 13 innings and clinched the series with a 7-3 win.
Hawai'i is expected to use its usual starting rotation of WAC ERA leader Steven Wright (9-2, 2.66) today, Justin Costi (7-1, 3.92) tomorrow and Ian Harrington (6-3, 4.58) Sunday.
The Spartans are slated to start Loren Moneypenny (4-4, 4.48) today and Branden Dewing (7-4, 3.04) tomorrow. They have yet to announce a Sunday starter.
First place in the regular season does not guarantee a regional berth. Only the WAC tournament champion is assured of one. The others have to hope for an at-large berth. Placement in the standings only determine seedings for the tournament, which is double elimination. The top seed plays the sixth, the second plays the fifth and the third plays the fourth on the first day.
Meanwhile, Baseball America Online's latest regional predictions lists Hawai'i for the first time this season. It has UH going to the regional hosted by Cal State Fullerton. The other two teams are UCLA and San Diego State.
But Fresno State is still projected as the WAC champion, getting the league's automatic berth. It has the Bulldogs going to the regional hosted by Texas.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.