‘Electric arm’ fizzles, sizzles after current starts to slip
IT was the top of the eighth inning, and after having beaten San Diego State three times in a row, the Rainbows just didn't have it in them this day, that much was clear. Hawaii was operating on fourth-day pitching and with Matt Inouye out of the lineup and they would surrender 14 hits and produce just five. That kind of day. They battled, of course.
"When you're without your 3-, 4- and 5-hitters and still have a chance to win the game ... ," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said after yesterday's 7-5 loss.
Yes, yes, they gave everything. It says something that this team was still in it, in a game like this, playing like that. In the middle of the game you thought they were going to do it, somehow, some way, despite everything.
But at this point in time, yesterday, all the gas was gone. You could start to see it.
The Aztecs had just scored -- to make it a two-run game -- on a wild pitch. And you could feel the whole thing just slipping away.
And into this went Matt Daly, true-freshman right-handed reliever. His first action of the season -- of his college career. An unknown new guy, No. 17. The most interesting thing on his bio is that he liked the movie "Wedding Crashers."
He was 19. He was nervous.
"It's a real adrenaline rush," he would say.
We could see that. His first pitch had some pop. It had a lot of pop, actually. Unfortunately, it also made the catcher get up out of his crouch. And then another high, hard one. Another. A passed ball. Good Lord.
He did everything but hit the Durham Bull.
"Throw it over the plate," a lady yelled. "It's not that hard!"
Apparently, this lady has never stood 60 feet, 6 inches from said plate.
He could bring it. Wow, he had heat. But he was all over the place. He was young.
How many pitches did he throw before he got a strike?
"Six or seven," Trapasso said. "Six I think."
"Six," Daly said, definitively.
He would know. He could still see every single one.
Finally, Trapasso went out there. Gave him the "freshman pitcher in his first collegiate action" talk. Called him "Rook." Told him to try to swallow. Have a little fun. That kind of thing. The kind of thing you say to players who might throw up all over themselves.
"And then," Daly said, "the nervousness kind of went away and I went back to doing what I've done my whole life."
A flyout. Then, a punchout on three straight strikes, two heaters and then a third pitch, one that left everyone in the stadium picking up their jaws. Including the guy at the plate, who could only wonder what had happened to the rookie wild man who just 2 minutes earlier had been another Nuke LaLoosh.
"That was a curveball," Daly said. "It froze him."
Oh, my goodness. And you got another feeling, then: This is what he's been doing his whole life.
Yes, this Daly kid was a big recruit, Trapasso said. Don't know what he did yesterday, but apparently he can top out at 94.
"He's a guy who's got a good arm," Trapasso said. "He's got an electric arm."
That he does.
The key thing, Trapasso said, is to try to find key innings for prospects like these, spots where they can get in the game, get some time. So as sophomores they can be ready to go.
Spots like yesterday, in the top of the eighth, down two in a nonconference series that you've already won.
Daly came out again in the ninth. A flyout. A punchout, looking again. An easy 6-3 play to end the inning. Zeroes all around.
No nervousness. No wildness. Just 1-2-3.
Was he ever worried it was going to get away from him when he threw six straight pitches without a strike?
"Not one bit," Daly said.
It's easy to say that, after you've finished with a 1-2-3.
So now he's "got my feet wet." He's seen his name with a check mark (get ready, maybe today). He's felt the rush and shown us the wildness and shaken out the nerves. Gotten the talk. He's still a freshman, Trapasso pointed out.
But the 'Bows have a guy who can get into the 90s. And apparently pitch, too.
"We're looking to great things from him," Trapasso said. Someday.
Yesterday, in a 7-5 loss with momentum slipping away, he began his Hawaii career.
"It's pretty indescribable," Daly said.