Rainbows hope to rise from the ranks
By Ferd Lewis
You look at the University of Hawai'i baseball schedule to date and wonder what happened to this weekend.
After five consecutive road games against teams that have spent time in the Top 25, presumably coach Mike Trapasso was unable to find any major league clubs to play on the way back home. Maybe the Steinbrenners wouldn't take his calls.
Perhaps the Yomiuri Giants were busy. The Samsung Lions, too.
No slight to a very competitive Gonzaga team, you understand, but what we've seen of UH's opponents so far had suggested that the 'Bows wouldn't be back home to play until their strength of schedule numbers hit the dugout roof.
Entering tomorrow night's opener of a three-game series with the Bulldogs, 12 of UH's 25 games in a 14-11 start have come against teams that are or have been ranked. Which is why the 'Bows own the eighth-toughest strength of schedule standing by one ranking.
To be sure Trapasso has been booking progressively tougher schedules in recent years but this one is right out of the Les Murakami "to be the best you've got to play the best" coaches' guide.
Perhaps not since 1992, amid the Murakami heydays, has UH played a more formidable non-conference lineup heading into the Western Athletic Conference. That year UH played Arizona, California, UCLA and Stanford, all of whom finished the season in Collegiate Baseball's Top 20.
And what didn't finish off the 'Bows definitely made them stronger in a run that ended one victory short of a return to the College World Series with a loss to eventual Omaha winner Pepperdine.
Nobody is saying these 'Bows will be knocking on the door of Rosenblatt Stadium, but the schedule is clearly designed to help them crash the NCAA Tournament, a place they haven't visited since 2006, as an automatic or at-large entry.
After too many years of playing decent schedules only to be dragged down by the WAC's Ratings Percentage Index when at-large bids are handed out, the 'Bows have floored it like their coach's job depended upon it. And, it might since Trapasso is charged with delivering UH to the postseason or demonstrating significant progress.
Not that this is apparently a one-year swing for the fences. We're told Trapasso has booked Oregon, Texas, Cal State Fullerton and Wichita State for Murakami Stadium in 2011.
Of course, while the 'Bows have shown an ability to book and get up for ranked teams they can ill afford to squander the considerable cred they've been building up and take their lumps against other opponents. Which is why, even when they aren't facing a marquee team, they need to play like they are.