Baseball 'Bows win WAC Sparkling day on diamonds for UH
Hawaii will offer Trapasso new deal
By Jack Magruder
Special to The Advertiser
MESA, Ariz. — Hawai'i is back atop the WAC.
The Rainbows advanced to their first NCAA tournament since 2006 by winning their first league title since 1992 as tournament MVP Kolten Wong and tournament record-breaker Collin Bennett continued to lead the offense and three pitchers evenly divided the task of stopping Fresno State, 9-6, at HoHoKam Park yesterday.
"There is one word to describe it — finally," Wong said.
"We've worked our (behind) off since Day 1, training, trying to get ready for this," the sophomore second baseman added. "This is the payoff. Everything is so good right now. We had a lot of fun this week. That's what we were lacking in the beginning. It paid off for us."
The Rainbows (33-26) entered the Western Athletic Conference Tournament as the No. 4 seed but beat top-seeded Fresno State twice in three days, with the Bulldogs' Saturday night win setting up the winner-take-all final yesterday.
The 64-team NCAA field will be announced today, and Hawai'i could stay right here, which might work out well for coach Mike Trapasso, who with his son has made a ritual out of stopping at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant near the team hotel this week. Arizona State, UCLA and Cal State Fullerton are the three West Coast host sites for the 16 regionals.
"They really peaked at the right time. We got some fire back into us," said Trapasso, whose team has won 15 of its past 23 games.
Wong batted 10 for 20 with three home runs, 10 runs and eight RBIs to earn the MVP award, and his two two-run homers Wednesday included a walkoff, 10th-inning shot for an 8-7 victory over Louisiana Tech.
"I was just trying to be that guy who could help the team," Wong said.
Yesterday, Wong doubled and was intentionally walked twice — the field finally caught on — and Bennett had two hits to set tournament records for hits (13) and doubles (7).
"I made a couple of adjustments in my swing, and doubles started coming," Bennett said. "I started staying back. I was getting a little too jumpy and a little too aggressive with my swing."
Jeffrey Van Doornum got the Rainbows off to a good start when he hit a home run over the 32-foot batter's eye in dead center field in the first inning, and his sacrifice fly in the second made it 5-2, giving Hawai'i a lead it never relinquished. Van Doornum finished with three hits and three RBIs.
After two infield errors and a ball that was lost in the sun in the top of the eighth inning brought in two runs to help Fresno State close to 7-6, David Freitas hit an RBI single and Bennett stroked a run-scoring double in the bottom half to give closer Lenny Linsky a three-run cushion.
Linsky, who won the opener against Louisiana Tech, got his 12th save of the season, facing 14 batters over the final 2 2/3 innings. He will take a 1.49 ERA into the regionals.
"I was all rah-rah in the dugout (Saturday), and coach said you better calm down because we might need you for five or six innings," Linsky said. "I came in ready to pitch."
Hawai'i starter Josh Slaats pitched into the fourth inning before left-hander Sam Spangler entered to face the predominately left-handed hitting Fresno lineup. Spangler gave up two hits and a run in 3 1/3 innings before leaving with one out in the seventh. Slaats faced 14 batters; Spangler faced 13.
"Spangler was the key to the game," Trapasso said. "We were just hoping somebody could get us to Linsky by the fifth, since we were on short rest."
Spangler, who was ineffective in his Thursday start against New Mexico State, said he "had a lot of adrenaline. I knew I'd have to come back, so I did a lot of conditioning. The guys played great defense behind me."
Hawai'i turned one of its four double plays on the first batter Spangler faced in the fourth, and he got out of a one-out, first-and-second situation with a double play in the fifth. Slaats got a bases-loaded double play to get out of the second.
"That was the key, helping our pitchers out," Wong said.