Coming weekend key in tight WAC race
Hawaii and this week's opponent, Sacramento State, are both 1-1/2 games out of first place
The Hawaii baseball team is engaged in a hotly contested, six-team race for first place in the Western Athletic Conference. The top spot and No. 1 seed in the postseason tournament are still wide open.
One reason for the tight race is that the Sacramento State Hornets cooled down league leader Louisiana Tech last weekend by defeating the Bulldogs twice.
Who: Sacramento State at Hawaii
When: Tomorrow and Saturday, 6:35 p.m.; Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
Where: Les Murakami Stadium
TV: Live, KFVE, Channel 5.
Radio: Live, KKEA, 1420-AM
LaTech is still in first place by half a game over Fresno State. The Rainbows (29-12 overall, 7-6 WAC) and the Hornets (20-24, 8-7) are a game and a half out of first.
San Jose State is two games back, and sixth-place Nevada is only 2-1/2 games behind LaTech.
With four weekends of conference games left in the regular season, no team has been a dominant force the way the Rice Owls were during their nine WAC seasons.
At the same time, no team can afford to stumble. This is especially true for the Rainbows, who close out their home season this week and play their final seven league games on the road next month.
The Hornets have won three consecutive games and nine of their last 13. They pounded out 16 hits to beat UC Davis 9-6 in a nonconference game Tuesday.
The 'Bows hold a 37-16 advantage overall against Sacramento State, but in the last four years the series has been much closer, with UH winning six of the 10 meetings.
"A (Hornets coach) John Smith team will compete. If you are not prepared and don't go out and play your best game, you will get beat," said Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso.
Hawaii's top two starting pitchers, right-handers Steven Wright (7-2, 2.85 ERA) and Justin Costi (5-1, 4.41), will be on the mound Friday and Saturday.
Sunday's starter is to be announced. Left-hander Ian Harrington has been the third-game starter, but has struggled his last two outings.
"Ian hasn't been healthy. He has that lingering flu bug and is weakened by it. I want to make sure he is strong again," Trapasso said.
"He doesn't have any mechanical problems. I haven't lost confidence in Ian in any way. I just want to keep the options open for Sunday."
The Rainbows did not practice Monday or Tuesday to give several players a chance to recover from the flu. However, catcher Esteban Lopez joined the list of players battling the flu Monday.
Joe Spiers, who suffered a grade-three sprain of his right ankle in warm-ups prior to the first New Mexico State game last Friday, is questionable for this weekend.
If Spiers can't play, Justin Frash, the leading UH hitter with a .400 average, will move from designated hitter to third base. Regular third baseman Jon Hee will cross the diamond to second base.
The designated hitters will be Kris Sanchez against right-handers and Adam Roberts against left-handers.
Note: It is "Fan Appreciation Weekend" and fans can register at a sign-up table at the stadium's main entrance for the chance to compete for a hotel and golf package compliments of the Hawaii Prince Hotel (retail value: $860) and other great prizes. Also, subscribers to the Athletics Department's "H-Mail" e-newsletter will receive 50 percent off tickets purchased online (maximum of four per person) at etickethawaii.com.