Friday, February 19, 1999
Ho in control
on the mound
The Rainbows' pitcher has
yet to give up an
Shockers pound HPU Sea WarriorsBy Al Chase
University of Hawaii pitcher Randon Ho has won his first four starts of the season and has yet to allow an earned run in 282/3 innings.
The start doesn't surprise him, but not allowing an earned run does.
"I'm loving it, but that's not going to be here forever. I didn't expect it to last this long, that's kind of ridiculous," Ho said.
With a career 10-9 record and lofty 6.08 earned-run average, Ho's fast start this season might have caught Rainbow fans off guard.
But the 5-foot-10, 155-pound left-hander returned home early from summer ball in Kansas last year with a tender arm and this eventually resulted in changes.
He didn't throw the rest of the summer, but spent considerable time getting stronger in the weight room. Ho also realized his approach to the game needed some retooling.
"When I came here I was a thrower," he said. "I didn't make any adjustments for the next level. I didn't work hard. I just did what I had to do to get by.
"If I had my head on straight through all my years in college ... I would have done a lot better than I did."
When Ho started throwing again this past fall, he was tight from all the weightlifting and just grooving his pitches. Now all the talk by his coaches about his pitches looking like batting-practice fastballs started to make sense. Suddenly he needed a game plan.
"My big thing is to work everything out in the bullpen so when I go on the mound I have nothing to worry about, nothing to think about," Ho said.
He also found a solution to being too excited, too hyped for a game.
"The gum in my mouth is a lot bigger than you would think. I tend to really get jacked for a game," Ho said. "I know it looks bad on TV, but it (the highly visible gum chewing) keeps my Adrenalin down and when I'm relaxed, I perform the best."
"He has more control over himself, physically and mentally, in his approach. That's the biggest change," UH pitching coach Carl Furutani said. "Physically he is more consistent. He repeats positive actions. He's learned about his strengths and weaknesses. He's worked hard to put things in order to be successful."
Much of that success can be found in two statistics. Ho has surrendered a shade over one hit every two innings and has walked just six batters. He has allowed just 21 of the 105 hitters he's faced to get on base.
"I feel like I let coach Les (Murakami) down, let myself down, let a lot of people down (in the past) and that's part of my drive this season," said Ho.
He set goals for 1999.
"The first was to become a starter and really work for 10-0. The second was to have an ERA better than last year. The third was to not let myself down for any game, not take myself out of it," he said.
He is definitely on track to achieve the first two goals and accomplishing the third one only enhances the odds of reaching the first two.
The Rainbows' 10-2 start doesn't surprise Ho either.
"I've never been on a team like this. There's a unified goal," he said. "We discussed about having a captain or captains and nobody said anything. I don't think we really need one because everyone is a leader in their own way.
"I really felt it in the alumni game. No one gets jacked for the alumni game, but I could feel it right from the beginning. The attitude in the dugout was just awesome."
When the Hawaii baseball coaches reviewed the 1998 season, one statistic really caught their attention. The Rainbow pitchers walked almost as many opponents (250) as they struck out (292) last season.
Rainbows trim walks
To combat this damaging situation, the rule for all pitchers in fall scrimmages was simple.
If you were down to pitch one inning and walked a batter, you were done.
If your task was to pitch two to four innings and you walked two batters, you were out.
If you were scheduled to pitch more than four innings and walked three batters, you were gone.
The 'Bows aren't blessed with power pitchers who record Ks with regularity, so the lesson had to be learned for the 1999 staff to be effective. So far, the '99 staff has issued just 22 walks and fanned 80 in 12 games.
"The kids worked very hard on their mechanics to solve this problem," UH pitching coach Carl Furutani said.
By Al Chase, Star-Bulletin
Coaches: WS, Gene Stephenson (22nd season, 1,171-347-3). UH, Les Murakami (29th season, 1,024-524-4).
Wichita State Shockers
Season: WS, 6-1. UH, 10-2.
Probable starting pitchers: WS, right-hander Ben Christensen (0-0, 1.80); right-hander Nate Robertson (1-0, 0.00); right-hander Erich Bryan (1-0, 0.00). UH, left-hander Jamie Aloy (2-2. 3.20); left-hander Brandon Ho (4-0. 0.00); left-hander Troy Yoshimasu (3-0. 4.00).
Top players: Four Shockers are listed in Baseball America's Top 100 Collegiate Prospects. They are pitcher Ben Christensen (No. 22), first baseman Pat Magness (No. 47), pitcher Nate Robertson (No. 58) and outfielder Jeff Ryan (No. 86). 1998 All-Americans include Ryan, Magness, reliever Marc Bluma and second baseman Kevin Hooper.
Interesting facts: In 1990 WSU offered Stephenson a $1 million annuity in exchange for his agreement to stay for eight seasons. Last July Stephenson received the deferred compensation package's final payoff. Estimates of the size of the check he received from the Wichita State Endowment Association ranged from $580,000 to $700,000. It was smart deal: Stephenson has taken the Shockers to four College World Series and played in two national championship games in those eight years ... His contract has been extended to 2003 with an increase in the base from $108,250 last year to $175,000 and a small-by-comparison $25,000 bonus at the end ... This is the Shockers' 10th Hawaii trip. They are 67-16-1 in the 50th state and have won six Easter Tournament titles ... The Shockers lead the series, 14-10.
Series keys: The Shockers are the best team the Rainbows have played so far this season according to UH head coach Les Murakami ... The series will be a good indicator of just where the 'Bows stand one week before the opening of Western Athletic Conference action. "For us, we just have to go out and play. The big test is next week when we go on the road," Murakami said ... WS pitchers may not be as far along as UH's, but Stephenson's team is loaded at every position with most of last year's 56-7 team back ... This may be the weekend the first home run of the season is hit at Rainbow Stadium ... The bats are aluminum in this series.
First pitch: Today, 7:05 p.m.; tomorrow, 3:05 p.m.; Sunday, 1:05 p.m. at Rainbow Stadium.
On the air: Today, live on KHNL TV (Channel 5) and KCCN radio (1420 AM); tomorrow, live on KCCN radio (1420 AM); Sunday, live on KHNL TV (Channel 5) and KCCN radio (1420 AM).