DuPree starts solidly in leadoff spot
The junior expects to be back in the outfield in two more weekends
Derek DuPree was the only Hawaii batter to hit safely in all three games against Wichita State last weekend. And now, DuPree is the Rainbows' regular leadoff man as UH heads into a five-game series against Chicago State starting Thursday.
The junior went 5-for-10 in the series and is 6-for-16 for the season after coming back from offseason knee surgery for an ACL tear.
"He hasn't had any at-bats against lefties yet, but I'd say for now he'll (bat leadoff) against both," UH coach Mike Trapasso said of the left-handed hitter. "He's swinging good and he had a good weekend."
DuPree was one of the few bright spots as the Rainbows lost all three games to the No. 12-ranked Shockers.
His pinch-hit single was one of only two UH hits in a 7-1 loss Friday. He batted first in the lineup in both games of Sunday's doubleheader; DuPree doubled and scored in the first inning of the opener, giving UH its only lead of the series in the 10-4 defeat, and singled to start Hawaii's ninth inning rally in the 5-4 nightcap loss.
DuPree batted .313 and was Hawaii's starting center fielder last year. He has been limited to designated hitter so far this season because of the knee.
"The knee's getting better every day," DuPree said. "I don't know when I'll be in the outfield, probably two weekends from now."
DuPree is not considered a classic leadoff batter because he doesn't draw a lot of walks. (He has 20 in 311 career plate appearances.)
"I'm just kind of impatient, I'd rather hit than walk," DuPree said. "I think they'll let me keep doing it this way as long as I get hits."
Left fielder Jorge Franco has batted leadoff in 11 games. He is hitless in his last 10 at-bats and his batting average for the season is .189.
Shortstop Eli Christensen has also struggled at the plate. He's 0-for his last 9, and batting .149 for the season. Nate Young (.257 in 35 at-bats) played short in the second game Sunday and went 1-for-4 with a walk.
Trapasso said it's too soon to announce a change of the starter.
"We'll see. Eli's our shortstop, but Nate's a good player and he's swinging the bat well," Trapasso said. "We've got two guys who can play shortstop and we need them both."
Christensen started slowly at the plate last year, but ended up hitting .301.
Sophomore Young and true freshman Kevin Macdonald might get some playing time at second base this week, because starter Jon Hee aggravated his subluxed left shoulder late in Sunday's second game.
"He couldn't swing the bat (after hurting the shoulder fielding an eighth-inning grounder)," Trapasso said. "I know he'll want to go, but he'll have to show me he's 100 percent or I'm going to hold him out."
Macdonald has just one hit in seven at-bats, but has connected soundly several times, including a deep fly out to end the series Sunday.
"We want to get Kevin Macdonald more involved," Trapasso said. "He's going to be a great player for us."
Five games in four days dictates that Hawaii expand its starting rotation this week from three pitchers to five.
Trapasso said he will evaluate candidates at practice today to join Ian Harrington, Mark Rodrigues and Josh Schneider. Those three have started 14 of UH's 15 games.
Bullpen aces Matt Daly (who started against Santa Clara on Jan. 28) and Tyler Davis are among the possibilities for the weekend, especially if they are not needed much early in the series.
"We'll have to see how things go," Trapasso said. "We really don't know yet."
Rodrigues, who is usually the second starter, might be moved to a Saturday or Sunday assignment this week. The senior left-hander started against Wichita State on Sunday because his scheduled start the day before was postponed by rain.
"We might give Mark a couple more days rest," Trapasso said.
Trapasso said Cameron Wheeler "is a possibility" for a starting nod. The junior right-hander has appeared in one game, retiring all three batters he faced.