Rainbows, Costi shut out San Jose State
Justin Costi pitched a six-hitter to lead No. 29 Hawai'i over San Jose State, 6-0, yesterday to clinch the Western Athletic Conference series at Municipal Stadium in San Jose, Calif.
But the Rainbows (39-13 overall, 16-6 WAC) remain a half-game back of first-place Fresno State (17-6), which beat Sacramento State, 14-3, yesterday. So the WAC tournament's top seed will be determined in today's regular season finale. Both games are at 10 a.m. Hawai'i time. A win today will give UH its first 40-win season since it went 49-14 in 1992.
Costi (8-1) walked one and struck out four to notch his second complete game of the season. He was the starting pitcher in three of UH's four shutouts this season. He was aided by two inning-ending double plays with a runner at third base on each occasion.
Yet, it was one of those outings where Costi didn't really find his stride until late in the game, UH coach Mike Trapasso said.
"It was a funny outing," Trapasso said. "Justin wasn't very good his first four innings. We were wondering if we could just milk it through the fifth (the minimum to get credit for a win) when we had the lead. It was just a matter of time before he was going to get the ball up in the zone. But he made the adjustment and by the seventh inning, he was as good as we've seen him."
San Jose State statisticians listed Costi as throwing 103 pitches, a highly efficient number for a complete game. In one stretch, Costi retired nine batters in a row.
Costi escaped jams in the fourth and ninth innings. In the fourth, he hit two batters and allowed a single to load the bases with one out. But he got John Shaffer to hit a grounder to third baseman Justin Frash, who stepped on third and fired to first for a double play. In the ninth, the Spartans started the inning with back-to-back singles to put runners at first and second. But Costi got Nick Epidendio to hit a grounder to short for a force at second to put runners at the corners. Justin Santich-Hughes grounded into an around-the-horn double play to end the game.
Meanwhile, Hawai'i's batters chipped away at Spartans starter Branden Dewing (7-5), who was charged with four runs (three earned) and 11 hits with five strikeouts in five innings. Eli Christensen, the team's leading hitter in WAC games, led UH's 15-hit attack by batting 2 for 4 with two RBIs. A run also scored when he grounded into a double play in the fifth, but by scoring rules he does not get credited with an RBI.
Matt Inouye went 3 for 4 with a double and three runs scored. Robbie Wilder, Esteban Lopez and Jon Hee each had two hits for the Rainbows, who are 15-3 on the road.
"Knock on wood that he's going to stay hot," Trapasso said of Inouye. "When he's swinging the bat (well), he can carry you."
Inouye got UH going with a lead-off double to left in the second inning, scoring one out later on Christensen's single to center.
In the third, a two-out error allowed Luis Avila to reach first. He took second on Inouye's single and scored on Lopez's single to right, making it 2-0.
A two-out RBI single by Justin Frash increased UH's lead to 3-0.
Hawai'i made it 4-0 in the fifth, Inouye reached on an infield single and took third on Lopez's single to right. Inouye scored when Christensen grounded into a double play.
The Rainbows scored twice in the seventh inning. A wild pitch and sacrifice fly by Christensen made it 6-0.
The Rainbows can earn the regular season title and top seed in the WAC tournament with a win and a Fresno State loss at Sacramento State today. UH will finish with one fewer WAC game than Fresno State because of a game canceled by snow at Nevada.
Left-hander Ian Harrington (6-3) will start today for UH against San Jose State right-hander Josh Amberson (6-3).
SEEDINGS NEARLY SET
With Hawai'i and Fresno State battling for the top seed of the WAC tournament, seeds three through six have been settled.
Third-seeded San Jose State (33-23, 12-11 WAC) will play fourth-seeded Nevada (11-12). Fifth-seeded Louisiana Tech (11-13) will play the second seed and sixth-seeded Sacramento State (8-15) will play the top seed.
According to the WAC, Fresno State, as host of the tournament, has the preferential starting time for Thursday's opener, and will play at 7 p.m. PDT. UH will play at 11 a.m. PDT, or 8 a.m., Hawai'i time.
A pre-tournament dinner is set for Wednesday for all teams. The all-WAC teams and major player awards will be announced.