JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kauai's Mark Rodrigues had a solid outing for UH on Saturday, earning his fourth win of the season in a victory over Nevada.
Rodrigues comes through for Rainbows
SAN JOSE, Calif. » The Hawaii Rainbows had just eliminated Louisiana Tech from the Western Athletic Conference baseball tournament on Saturday, but UH still needed to oust Nevada to keep its season alive.
"I think if we win the next game (Nevada) we'll be in (the NCAA Tournament)," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said between games.
It was the Rainbows' fourth game in three days and the UH pitching staff was running out of fresh arms. Trapasso was counting on a good and lengthy effort from Mark Rodrigues.
It turned out to be a good choice.
The left-hander from Koloa, Kauai, had not pitched more than 3 1/3 innings in his previous six appearances split between three starting assignments and three relief jobs.
If Rodrigues was supposed to feel pressure in the must-win game, he didn't.
"I just wanted to go out there and pitch," said Rodrigues, who went seven innings and allowed six hits and two runs.
"I just got the outs I needed to. Some of the balls the Wolf Pack hit I thought were leaving the park."
When Darrell Fisherbaugh closed out the game with two hitless innings, Rodrigues had his fourth win of the season.
One reason for his success against Nevada and two weeks ago at San Jose State was a slight change in his mechanics when throwing the changeup.
"I was coming across my body too much and leaving the pitch short," Rodrigues said. "At San Jose, I started stepping more directly toward the plate and that made the change more effective."
This year is Rodrigues' first competitive season since he pitched for Los Medanos Community College in 2003.
Drafted by Oakland that year in the 37th round, he turned the Athletics down to come home and pitch for the 'Bows.
"They made a decent offer, but I talked to my mom (Caridad) and her main concern was school," Rodrigues said.
Rodrigues redshirted in 2004 while trying to rehab his injured left arm. He finally had Tommy John surgery and missed the 2005 season.
It wasn't until last summer that he started throwing the ball, only fastballs, 15 pitches at a time in the bullpen. He finally started throwing hard at the end of fall practice, although his velocity was up and down depending on how he felt.
"It has been tough. Every day I wake up and it is on my mind," Rodrigues said. "This past month it has been fine. As long as I can step on that hill and throw the ball, I feel good.
"I would like to be able to go five or six innings and stay at 88 (miles per hour) with my fastball. That will come as I pitch more innings."
Against Nevada, Rodrigues had his fastball up to 88 and 89 mph for about three innings, then the velocity began to drop according to the speed gun at Pete Beiden Field.
"I had thrown 74 pitches after five innings. I told Coach K (pitching coach Chad Konishi) that I was gassed. He told me to suck it up and wanted to know if my elbow was OK. I told him it was OK.
"He started calling a lot more changeups and sliders because they had gotten some pretty good swings on my fastball."
Rodrigues went back out and retired Nevada in order in the sixth and faced just four batters in the seventh.
He needs one class to graduate with a sociology degree.
Hawaii's Wright and Trapasso receive honors
The College Baseball Foundation has honored Hawaii junior right-hander Steven Wright and coach Mike Trapasso.
Wright was one of seven pitchers named to the CBF All-America team. The Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year is 11-2 with a 2.30 ERA.
Trapasso, in his sixth season at UH and with the program's best record (43-15) since 1992, was one of four national coaches of the year selected. He is joined by Wayne Graham (Rice), John Cohen (Kentucky) and Brian O'Connor (Virginia).