Rainbows blank LaTech, 8-0
|||Nevada on a roll as it takes on Hawai'i|
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
FRESNO, Calif. — Showing he was deserving of his award from the night before, Steven Wright delivered another gem for Hawai'i.
The junior right-hander pitched four-hit ball over eight innings to lead the No. 24 Rainbows over Louisiana Tech, 8-0, yesterday in the opener of the Western Athletic Conference baseball tournament at Beiden Field.
"The last two times he's pitched against us he's been lights out," LaTech coach Wade Simoneaux said. "He's pitching as well as they're playing. They're tough to beat right now."
The second-seeded Rainbows (41-13), winners of 16 of their last 18 games, will play Nevada (25-26) at 4 p.m., Hawaii'i time, today. The Wolf Pack beat San Jose State, 15-1, yesterday. Fifth-seeded LaTech (32-24) will play Sacramento State (20-36) today in a losers' bracket game of the double-elimination tournament.
It was a typical outing for Wright (11-2), who was named WAC Pitcher of the Year on Wednesday night.
He tied a career-high with 13 strikeouts and did not issue a walk. He did hit a batter. Only one Bulldog reached second, when Brian Rike hit a ground-rule double to left-center with one out in the eighth. But he was stranded there when Wright rung up his 12th and 13th strikeouts.
He wanted to go out in the ninth, but at 123 pitches and an 8-0 lead, there was no need to use him further. Tyler Davis got three harmless groundouts with five pitches to close it out in the ninth.
"He was stronger at the end, actually," UH coach Mike Trapasso said of Wright. "But he was at 123 pitches and that was it."
"It was just adrenaline," Wright said of his strength in the later innings. "I kind of get in a groove and my timing and mechanics start to click in and everything starts to come into sync."
It was UH's fifth shutout of the season and second in its last three games.
It was Wright's second shutout of the season; he had a combined shutout April 21 against New Mexico State, 6-0.
Leadoff batter Adam Cobb had two singles to account for half of LaTech's hits. As for the double to Rike, it came off a 2-2 pitch.
"I just left it out," Wright said. "I didn't want to walk him. I wanted him to earn it. I got it up and he got a good piece of it. But it didn't faze me. I had a little bit to work with with our lead."
Although the Rainbows had won four in a row against the Bulldogs and beat starter Luke Burnett (4-6), 9-1, in Ruston on May 2, Trapasso still had concerns about facing the 6-foot-8 freshman right-hander, whom he said will be a star in the future.
"I was actually nervous coming into this (game) earlier in the week, knowing we drew Burnett because he's capable of being outstanding," Trapasso said. "First couple innings, he was throwing with command and velocity. We did what we had to do to match him and Steven did all of that and more."
The Rainbows tagged Burnett for four runs on nine hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two.
Matt Inouye batted 3 for 4 with two RBIs to lead Hawai'i's 13-hit offense. Luis Avila and Esteban Lopez each had two hits, and Eli Christensen and Joe Spiers each had RBIs.
The Rainbows took a 1-0 lead in the second. After Burnett registered his third strikeout, Inouye bounced a single just inside first and took third on Lopez's ground-rule double to right-center. Christensen followed with a sacrifice fly to center.
Hawai'i added two in the fourth. Justin Frash led off with a single to right and took third when Avila drilled a single off the right-field wall. Avila took a wide turn, but had to scamper back to first because the carom was so hard that right fielder Jericho Jones got the ball back in quickly.
A wild pitch in front of the plate allowed Avila to take second, with Frash holding third. With the infield playing in, Inouye's line single to left scored Frash and sent Avila to third. Lopez's sacrifice fly to deep center made it 3-0.
Avila made it 4-0 in the sixth with a two-out solo blast to left off a hanging curve by Burnett.
"It was hanging most of the game," Avila said. "I was looking for the same pitch and just got it. During (each at-bat) I made adjustments."
The Rainbows sealed it with a four-run eighth against reliever Steve Alverson. An error made three of the runs unearned. Inouye had an RBI double and Spiers had a two-run single in the inning.
"It's good to come out in the first game," Avila said. "It gives us confidence and puts us in a better position in the tournament."
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at skaneshiro@honoluluadver tiser.com or 525-8042.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at email@example.com.