'Bows arrive in Oregon reborn
Hawaii is upbeat heading into its first NCAA baseball regional in 13 years
CORVALLIS, Ore. » The Hawaii Rainbows arrived here yesterday at midday, looking relaxed and rejuvenated after five grueling games at the Western Athletic Conference baseball tournament.
The players, their personal luggage and equipment bags filled the lobby of their hotel. Although the Rainbows had to wait in line to use the lone elevator after receiving room assignments, it was obvious that being on the road for a third straight week had not become a drag.
At Corvallis, Ore.
All times Hawaii time
Game 1: No. 2 Kansas (42-23) vs. No. 3 Hawaii (43-15), 9 a.m.
Game 2: No. 1 Oregon State (39-14) vs. No. 4 Wright State (32-25), 2 p.m
Hawaii looked ready to take on all comers in the NCAA tournament's first round of the Corvallis Regional beginning tomorrow.
"We're going to be up here (on the mainland) for three more weeks," said catcher Esteban Lopez, referring to the players' goal of going all the way to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.
The team had a light workout yesterday afternoon, only taking batting practice. As they did, rain started to fall, something that doesn't faze the 2006 Rainbows.
The five-day forecast for the mid-valley region is for showers tomorrow morning, then "times of clouds and sun" through the weekend, according to the local newspaper.
The Rainbows' (43-15) first trip to a regional since 1993 comes without any team hype or change in routine.
"I told our guys after practice that we will approach this like we have approached every game all season long," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "What we have done all year was good enough to get us here. We kept an even keel and had fun."
"Probably more than anything else, we didn't get too high with our wins or too low with our defeats. We stayed consistent, focused on the task that was next. We learned from the mistakes and try not to repeat them, but we don't dwell on the past."
Trapasso has been trying to get as much information as he can about the Rainbows' first opponent, the Kansas Jayhawks, who are making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1994.
Seeded sixth in the Big 12 tournament, the Jayhawks won consecutive games over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Nebraska. With the exception of Missouri, the other teams were ranked in the top 15 of various polls.
Kansas enters the regional having won nine of its last 11 games.
"The Jayhawks are a very hot team right now," Trapasso said. "They are very aggressive offensively and they're playing the best they have all year."
KU coach Ritch Price has led the Jayhawks to 30 or more wins in each of his four seasons, a first for the program. He named senior right-hander Kodiak Quick (11-4, 3.36 ERA) to start against UH.
Quick's 11 victories is a Kansas single-season record.
"Quick is a sinker, slider guy, who throws from a low angle, and is tough on right-hand batters," Trapasso said.
Jared Schweitzer leads the Jayhawks with a .358 batting average. Erik Morrison is the home-run leader (13), and Gus Milner has the most RBIs (56).
Steven Wright will be on the mound for the Rainbows tomorrow. The junior right-hander (11-2, 2.30 ERA) is making his 16th start of the season.
"We have a group of guys who won't be satisfied with just going to a regional," Wright said. "We came here to win, then go to a Super Regional, then on to the College World Series.
"If we're just satisfied being here, we won't win. We have to play the same kind of ball we have played the past four weeks."
Justin Frash continues to lead UH with a .368 average, followed by Matt Inouye (.337), Robbie Wilder (.335) and Luis Avila (.333).
Avila and Frash are 1-2 in RBIs with 54 and 53.
In tomorrow's other first-round game at Goss Stadium at Coleman Field, host Oregon State plays Wright State.
OREGON STATE BEAVERS
The Pac-10 champions are led by conference player of the year Cole Gillespie, an outfielder who hit .370 with 11 homers and 50 RBIs. Named to the all-conference first team were shortstop Garwin Barney (.348), right-hander Dallas Buck (11-2, 2.92) -- who will start tomorrow against Wright State -- right-hander Jonah Nickerson (9-4, 2.61) and left-hander Kevin Gunderson, who is tied for the national lead with 18 saves.
The Beavers have won 27 of their last 34 games and hope to repeat their success of last year, when they went to Omaha.
On the OSU roster is sophomore Erik Ammon, who redshirted his first year at UH, then played 36 games last season before transferring. He has played in 15 games as a backup catcher.
WRIGHT STATE RAIDERS
This is the Raiders' second appearance in the NCAA tournament. They swept through the Horizon League tournament, outscoring their four opponents 52-5.
Infielders Ross Oeder is the leading hitter (.377) on a team with a .302 average. The Raiders have decent power, with 99 doubles, 18 triples and 36 homers.
Amin Budinsky leads with seven home runs.
The top two starting pitchers are Robert Barrett (8-3, 2.80) and Erich Schanz (6-3, 3.79). The key to the Wright State staff is closer Joe Smith, a right-hander who has 12 saves and a 0.75 ERA in 29 appearances.