'Bows get berth in WAC tourney
Hawai'i secured a spot for this week's Western Athletic Conference tournament by beating San Jose State, 4-2, yesterday in the first game of a doubleheader at Municipal Stadium in San Jose, Calif.
The Spartans (21-34, 9-14) won the seven-inning second game, 3-0.
With Fresno State's 7-6 and 10-1 sweep of Sacramento State, San Jose State claimed the last spot in the six-team tournament. The Hornets (7-16) are two games back of the sixth-place Spartans with one game left. The Bulldogs (15-8) clinched the top seed for the tournament.
The Rainbows (28-25 overall, 11-12 WAC) pulled into a tie for fourth with Louisiana Tech (11-12). Should they end the regular season tied, UH owns the tie-breaker of better conference road record (5-6 to Tech's 3-8). Still, they'll be the fourth and fifth seeds and will face off in the tournament opener Wednesday.
Idle New Mexico State (13-9-1) has secured the second seed regardless if Nevada (13-9-1) wins today because of the same tie-breaker that gives UH the edge over Louisiana Tech.
Fresno State and NMSU draw first-round byes as the top two seeds.
The Rainbows took care of business early by taking the doubleheader opener behind the strong pitching of Sam Spangler (4-6), who went six innings, allowing a run, seven hits and a walk, while striking out one. Jesse Moore allowed a run in the ensuing two innings and Lenny Linsky ensured victory, allowing a single in a scoreless ninth for his 11th save.
"Sam struggled keeping the ball down in the zone, but he was able to make the pitches when he needed to," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "He had a couple big double plays. We were fortunate they hit some line drives right at our infielders. But overall, pretty solid effort, I thought."
Collin Bennett went 3 for 4 with two doubles, one of them scoring two to increase UH's lead to 3-0 in the third inning. Greg Garcia also went 3 for 4 with a double.
Spartans' starting pitcher John Austin (1-8) was charged with three runs, five hits and a walk in three innings. Kolten Wong drew a bases-loaded walk against relief pitcher Eric LeBaron for an insurance run in the top of the ninth.
In the second game, Sean Martin and Zach Jones combined on a six-hitter to beat the Rainbows.
Martin (2-3) scattered six hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out two. He escaped third-inning trouble by picking off one runner and nailing another leaning the wrong way for a caught stealing.
"We just couldn't get anything going offensively against Martin," Trapasso said. "He just stymied us the whole night. We just couldn't get anything going."
The Rainbows' biggest threat came in the sixth when Matt Roquemore singled with one out and reached third on Wong's double. Jones, who started at DH, replaced Martin and walked Pi'ikea Kitamura to load the bases. But Jones struck out Jeffrey Van Doornum and got David Freitas to ground out to third to end the threat.
The Spartans did all their scoring early. Eric Borg's two-out, two-run double off UH starter Matt Sisto came in the second inning. Corey Valine's third-inning bunt single with runners at the corners made it 3-0. Sisto (4-5) allowed three runs in four innings.
"He was just OK," Trapasso said of Sisto. "He was up in the zone a little bit. But he caught a couple of bad breaks on a flare that should have been caught in the outfield. They were able to scratch across a couple of runs and we weren't (able to)."
The Rainbows will close out the regular season today. Trapasso was unsure of his starter, but said Connor Little "probably" will get the call. A win would even UH's conference record at 12-12 and give the Rainbows their second consecutive WAC series of the season and momentum heading into the tournament.
"I haven't decided (if the game will be staffed today)," Trapasso said. "I want to play to win it, but I want to make sure everybody's ready to go for Wednesday."
Trapasso said he still won't commit to Wednesday's starter. Josh Slaats wasn't up to his performances that made him a four-time WAC Pitcher of the Week in the 5-3 series-opening win against SJSU Friday. His last quality start was a 10-0 win at Louisiana Tech on April 22.
"I'm not going to commit to anything regarding the tournament just yet," Trapasso said. "He has not thrown well since that start. That was a long time ago."
Because the UH softball team's regional championship game against Texas Tech at Stanford, Calif., starts at the same time (10 a.m. HST), there will be periodical updates until baseball can be picked up in progress after the softball game.