Rainbows pound San Jose State, 11-1
No. 29 Hawai'i clinched at least the second seed for the Western Athletic Conference baseball tournament with an 11-1 romp of San Jose State yesterday at Municipal Stadium in San Jose, Calif.
Steven Wright (10-2) pitched three-hit ball over seven innings to become the first Rainbow to reach double-digit victories since 1996, when Paul Ah Yat was 10-6. Wright struck out seven and walked two.
"That's kind of a milestone for college baseball," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "It's akin to (a professional) 20-game winner."
Yet, Trapasso graded Wright's outing as "an OK performance."
"We've seen him better," Trapasso said. "He was behind (in the count) more than normal. He got a little tired today. Missing the start (because of final exams last week), he might have been out of sync."
Mark Rodrigues, who struggled at San Francisco on Tuesday, finished the game with two perfect innings of relief. He used only 17 pitches to dispatch all six batters he faced.
"I thought Mark had his best stuff all year," Trapasso said. "He was touching 88, 90 (mph) with command."
The big lead allowed Trapasso to give Rodrigues some work before the tournament and allows Tyler Davis to be fresh for either today or tomorrow's games, if needed.
The Rainbows improved to 38-13 overall and 15-6 in the WAC, but remain a half-game back of first-place Fresno State (16-6), a 10-7 winner against Sacramento State yesterday. But UH did earn at least the second seed for the tournament, as the third-place Spartans (33-22, 12-10) cannot catch the Rainbows in the next two games.
Loren Moneypenny (4-5) was tagged for seven runs and eight hits in four-plus innings for the Spartans, who have lost their last four games.
Hawai'i had 14 hits, including four doubles and a triple. Eli Christensen continued his success in WAC play, driving in three runs, including a two-run triple in a three-run third. He leads the team in batting (.388) and RBIs (19) in WAC games.
Matt Inouye was 3 for 5 and Jon Hee was 2 for 4, each driving in two runs for the Rainbows. Derek DuPree, Justin Frash and Luis Avila each had two hits.
The Rainbows took a 1-0 lead in the second when Avila and Inouye singled to start the inning. Esteban Lopez's deep foul fly out to right moved Avila to third. Avila scored when Christensen grounded to third for a force at second.
Hawai'i added three in the third with Christensen's two-out, two-run triple, followed by Jorge Franco's RBI single that made it 4-0.
The Rainbows tagged on three more in the fifth with Frash's RBI single ending Moneypenny's night. Inouye's two-run single off Brandon Hennessey made it 7-0.
The Spartans got a gift in the bottom of the fifth, when a throwing error by shortstop Christensen prolonged the inning long enough for David Pierson's sacrifice fly to make it 7-1.
Hawai'i added another run in the sixth on DuPree's RBI double, two more in the seventh when Lopez reached on an RBI fielder's choice with runners at second and third and on Hee's RBI single. Hee added a sacrifice fly to center in the ninth to make it 11-1.
Franco made his first start since April 30, UH's last home game against Sacramento State, when he collided with Christensen as they converged on a fly ball. He started at designated hitter.
With left-hander Branden Dewing slated to start today, Franco is likely to start in left field, Trapasso said. That moves Robbie Wilder to center with the left-handed hitting DuPree sitting.
The Rainbows have two chances to pass Fresno State to gain the top seed for the six-team, double-elimination tournament. But they not only have to win their games against the Spartans, they must rely on Sacramento State to beat the Bulldogs.
The series resumes today at 10 a.m., Hawai'i time. Right-hander Justin Costi (7-1) is scheduled to start for UH. A win clinches the season series over SJSU.
Last-place New Mexico State eliminated itself from tournament competition on Thursday with a 5-4 loss to Nevada; the Aggies lost again last night, 16-7.