'Bows' opening foe healthy and hot
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
SAN JOSE, Calif. — As Hawai'i coach Mike Trapasso noted, any baseball team in the NCAA Tournament must be playing well of late.
That is exactly right about the No. 22 Kansas Jayhawks, the Rainbows' first opponent Friday in their regional at Oregon State's Goss Stadium in Corvallis, Ore.
The game is scheduled to start at 9 a.m., Hawai'i time, for second-seeded Kansas and third-seeded Hawai'i (43-15), the only at-large selection in this regional.
No. 5 Oregon State (39-14), the Pac-10 champion, meets Horizon League tournament champion Wright State (30-25) at 2 p.m., HST, in a game matching the first and fourth seeds.
The Jayhawks' seven-game win streak is the longest among the four teams in the regional. Kansas (42-23) finished fifth in the Big 12 after the regular season, but won the conference tournament and the automatic berth. Their streak began with a regular-season three-game sweep of Texas A&M, and extended with tournament wins against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Nebraska to earn a regional berth in coach Ritch Price's home state.
"It's not much of a homecoming when you have to play Oregon State and Hawai'i," the fourth-year Kansas coach said by phone.
Price said injuries to center fielder and lead-off batter Matt Baty (.298) and shortstop and No. 2 hitter Ritchie Price (.289) hurt the Jayhawks during the regular season. Baty missed eight weeks and Price 11 (for two different wrist/hand-related injuries). But with both back, it appears the Jayhawks are back to form.
"We have nine pretty good starters," coach Price said. "But we have no depth."
Price, who coached at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo from 1994 to 2002 before taking over at Kansas in 2003, is familiar with UH's history. Cal Poly was an affiliate member of the Western Athletic Conference for a portion of Price's tenure.
The Jayhawks are likely to start senior right-hander Kodiak Quick (11-4, 3.36 ERA), who pitched his first two collegiate seasons at Stanford before transferring to Kansas his junior year. He will face UH's ace right-hander Steven Wright (11-2, 2.30), a College Baseball Foundation All-America selection.
"Everybody knows that Steven Wright is one of the best pitchers in the nation," Price said.
Kansas is powered by third baseman Erik Morrison (.297), who leads the team with 13 home runs. Right fielder Gus Milner (.332) leads the team with 56 RBIs and has seven homers. Left fielder John Allman (.335) has six homers and 50 RBIs.
The Jayhawks' tie to Hawai'i is that they opened their season at UH-Hilo, taking 4 of 5. Vulcans coach Joey Estrella remembers a good-hitting club and one that has shown steady progress under Price.
"Every year he's getting bigger and better players," Estrella said by phone.
Estrella is also familiar with Goss Stadium.
"Depends on the weather, if it's a clear day, the ball could fly," he said, adding the park does not favor home run hitters or pitchers one way or the other.
Interestingly, UH-Hilo opens its 2007 season with Oregon State, followed by UH and then Kansas.
As for the present, Price is trying to keep his players focused while he tries to accommodate well-wishers from his hometown. He is a 1978 graduate of Willamette University in Salem. Fellow alumni, family and friends have been contacting him since it was learned he would bring his Jayhawks to OSU.
"It's been hectic for me," Price said.
Meanwhile, the Rainbows worked out yesterday at Blethen Field on the San Jose State campus. The team will leave today for Portland, then bus to Corvallis.
The Rainbows were originally scheduled to practice after they arrived in Corvallis, but Trapasso said he will give them the day off and get a workout in tomorrow at Goss Stadium.
Since the dynamics of a regional change a bit, being that a team's season is over after two losses, Wright getting the Friday start is the only known factor.
Trapasso said he might stay with the same rotation, with Justin Costi and Ian Harrington to follow, but that might change depending on the outcome of Friday's game.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.