Rainbows staying in Arizona for regional
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai'i's next road trip won't require a plane ride.
The newly crowned Western Athletic Conference champions will take a 10-minute bus ride from Mesa, Ariz., where they played the conference tournament, to Tempe, Ariz., where they are the third seed of the Arizona State-hosted NCAA Regional.
The Rainbows (33-26) will open against No. 15 San Diego, 11 a.m, HST, Friday. The other opener is between Wisconsin-Milwaukee and top-seeded Arizona State, ranked No. 2 in Baseball America. The regional will be played at Packard Stadium on the ASU campus.
"It doesn't require a plane flight," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "From a transportation standpoint, it's so easy. We'll just load up the bus (today) and drive about 10 minutes down the road and just switch hotels. It's a lot better than having to check in, fly some place and go through all that hassle, so it's definitely easier for us."
This is UH's first regional appearance since 2006, when it earned an at-large bid to the Corvallis, Ore., Regional, where it made it to the title game against eventual College World Series champion Oregon State. Back then UH, which finished second to Fresno State in the conference tournament in Fresno, took a 2 1/2-hour van ride to San Jose and waited the next day for the regional announcement before flying up to Oregon.
The Rainbows will be facing a familiar foe in San Diego, which lost to UH, 8-6, March 29 in San Diego. It was a Monday single game after each played weekend series, so neither saw weekend starting pitchers. Zach Gallagher pitched six innings and earned the win, while the Toreros staffed the game with six pitchers. San Diego is hot, having won 22 of its last 30.
"I don't know if it helps a lot," Trapasso said of having played the Toreros this season. "They are as hot a team as there is in college baseball and that's great because we're playing well also. When we played, we had our fifth starters going against each other, so now we'll be seeing them at full strength."
Some Rainbows also have played at Packard in past seasons. Hawai'i played in the ASU-hosted Coca-Cola Classic in 2008, where games were played at various sites, including Packard. The Rainbows also played a single game at Packard in 2007.
"Honestly, when you're at this point, you're always going to play somebody that is very good," Trapasso said. "You're going to play some of the best teams college baseball has to offer, so who you're playing and where you're playing doesn't matter. We are familiar with Packard because we played there before. They're going to turn the furnace on. They tell me by the end of this week, it's going to (be) 100, 115 (degrees). But we'll be fine. Our guys are excited."
The Rainbows will try to get in a light workout today. They will look for a practice site for tomorrow before the teams are allowed official 75-minute workouts at Packard on Thursday, Trapasso said.
Trapasso said he has not decided on a starting pitcher for the opener.