It's got 'tough' act to follow
|||Rainbows 'OK' in KO of Alumni squad, 13-1|
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Questions abound for the University of Hawai'i baseball team as the season opener looms.
The Rainbows start their sixth season under coach Mike Trapasso with a three-game, nonconference series against Santa Clara starting Friday at Les Murakami Stadium.
The answers will come as the season rolls along. It did last year, resulting in the winningest season for Trapasso at 45-17, a second-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference (regular season and tournament) and a runner-up at the Corvallis (Ore.) Regional to eventual national champion Oregon State. Among last year's questions were:
This season's questions are:
Only time will tell if those issues will be resolved.
But there's another question, one that involves the whole team: Who will lead the way?
"That toughness in game situations, I did not see in the fall," Trapasso said. "I don't mean that we don't have good kids; we have great kids. We've seen that (intensity) improve immensely in the last few weeks we've been practicing. But we still have to see guys step up as leaders, take control of the team. That intensity, fire and toughness will develop as the season goes on."
There were no team captains last year (as it is this season). But Matt Inouye provided the intensity, whether batting, fielding or base-running.
"You need a guy like Matt to be a leader to get everybody else fired up," Trapasso said. "In baseball, we really stress keeping that even keel, but that's more on emotion. You still need to have that intensity and that toughness. We weren't very tough in the fall, but we've been better thus far in the spring."
With Wright forgoing his senior season by signing with the Cleveland Indians (second-round draft pick), Harrington, a senior, is the top returning starter from last year's rotation. He looks forward to being the Friday starter.
"It's something to think about, but at the same time, I just go out there with the same mindset and help the team win games," the left-hander said.
Harrington was the hottest starter down the stretch, winning his last five decisions, the last two being complete games in the WAC tournament and Corvallis Regional. His streak came after a horrendous outing against New Mexico State, which tagged him for four runs in 2 1/3 innings.
"I took a step back mentally, I think I was trying too hard, when I was struggling," he said. "I was thinking too much. I found out when I had success, I just went out there and pitched and had fun and played the game. It turned out to be positive for me."
Of his last five starts, his shortest outing was seven innings. Because of the heavy workload down the stretch, he took the summer off. Except for a seven-inning outing in an international tournament in which he pitched against a Cuban team.
"They're great hitters," he said of the Cubans. "A curveball down, they'd hit it. They weren't the most disciplined hitters, but when they got hold of one, you knew it."
Unlike the power-pitching Wright (123 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings), Harrington is more of a finesse pitcher (54 Ks in 103 2/3 innings).
Junior college transfer Nicholas Rhodes, also left-handed, has earned a spot in the rotation.
"He's similar to a Harrington in that he's very competitive, a great kid," Trapasso said. "When we broke camp in the fall, I looked at him as a real possible Sunday starter."
But while left-hander Mark Rodrigues awaits approval for a sixth year of eligibility (medical), it appears either right-handers Matt Daly or Tyler Davis will fill that third spot. That removes an established reliever from the bullpen. But that's how roles evolve.
"It could really affect us early in the year when our starters aren't geared to going more than five, six, seven innings," Trapasso said. "The fun part about that is it creates opportunities for other guys. You're able to see how they handle it and give somebody opportunities they might not have had that would allow them to develop and make your team deeper."
That's what Daly and Davis did last year as an incoming freshman and JC transfer, respectively. They established themselves as reliable and versatile pitchers.
With closer Darrell Fisherbaugh electing not to return for his senior year, Davis or Daly could assume the role; they combined for four saves last year (Davis had three).
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at email@example.com.