LaTech sweeps Hawaii
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
In the worst four days of the season, Hawai'i watched its titles hopes turn into a matter of survival.
Justin Gordey, who replaced an ejected player, barely beat out a chopper to second base that allowed the go-ahead run to score from third with two outs in the top of the ninth as Louisiana Tech edged UH, 8-7, yesterday to complete a four-game Western Athletic Conference series sweep.
Hawai'i (26-20 overall, 9-10 WAC), which opened the series a half-game out of first, dropped to fifth place, two games behind leader Nevada, but 1 1/2 games ahead of the conference cellar shared by Fresno State (6-10) and Sacramento State (5-9).
"We made our losses," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "We played (terribly) all weekend, pitched (terribly), we didn't hit with runners in scoring position.
"(The Bulldogs) kicked (us). They deserve everything they got. We got everything we got. That's all I've got to say."
After tomorrow's non-conference game at St. Mary's, the Rainbows will close out their WAC schedule at Fresno State. It is a critical series for both teams for dubious reasons. Both are in jeopardy of being the odd team out of the six-team WAC tournament. It would be embarrassing for the Bulldogs not to make it being that they are not just defending champions, but defending College World Series champions. It would be disastrous for Hawai'i because it is hosting the May 21-24 tournament.
Louisiana Tech knows first hand about UH's predicament. It did not qualify for the WAC tournament that it hosted last year.
"Absolutely, it was on our mind," Tech coach Wade Simoneaux said about the urgency to play well after a 1-7 start in WAC play. "That's something that eats you up inside, especially when you're hosting."
Worse for Hawai'i, whatever its outcome at FSU, the Rainbows draw the bye the following week as they close the regular season with a four-game non-conference series against visiting Utah Valley. That means UH may have to wait to see its fate.
Yesterday's crowd of 1,725 at Les Murakami Stadium saw much of the same the previous three games with the Rainbows struggling on the mound and at the plate.
Starter Jared Alexander struggled to find his form from a year ago that had WAC coaches picking him preseason Pitcher of the Year. He could not hold a 6-3 lead, getting tagged for six runs in 5 1/3 innings. Connor Little didn't retire any of the three batters he faced with one scoring before Josh Slaats got an inning-ending double play to end a four-run sixth that put the Bulldogs ahead, 7-6.
The Rainbows tied it at 7 in the bottom of the sixth when the left-handed hitting Christian Johnson walked against left-hander Mike Jefferson, took second on Matt Roquemore's sacrifice, advanced to third on Ryan Morford's single and scored on Greg Garcia's sacrifice fly to center.
Slatts (2-2) followed with scoreless seventh and eighth innings. But he paid for a lead-off walk to Patrick Thomas in the ninth. Like textbook, Thomas was sacrificed to second and went to third on a groundout to second. Gordey — a replacement for Devon Dageford, who was ejected after arguing that he struck out in the seventh — hit a chopper that seemingly took forever to get to second baseman Morford, whose throw to first was too late as Thomas scored the go-ahead run.
"I wanted to hit the ball on the turf because I knew it was going to bounce a little bit," Gordey said. "I just tried to hustle as much as I could."
The Rainbows made it interesting in the bottom of the ninth. Jefferson (2-2) walked Kolten Wong to start the inning. Landon Hernandez reached first when first baseman Alex Williams bobbled the sacrifice for an error, putting runners at first and second. After a 1-0 count on Sean Montplaisir, Jefferson was pulled for Kyle Roliard. Montplaisir's sacrifice moved the runners.
Trapasso then sent the right-handed hitting Shane Hoey to bat for Johnson, who had homered earlier in the game. Simoneaux countered with right-hander Graham Meyers, who struck out Hoey.
After a 1-0 count, Roquemore fouled off seven consecutive pitches from Meyers, who abruptly required attention from Simoneaux and the trainer.
"He popped his elbow, might be done for the year," Simoneaux said. "He threw all fastballs and felt something the second to last pitch he threw."
Left-hander Jemelle Clements' first offering to the left-handed hitting Roquemore was fouled off before he swung and missed to end the game.
The Rainbows' five-game losing streak is their longest skid of the season.
"We just have to play better," Trapasso said.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.