Baseball 'Bows in for a challenge
The Hawaii baseball team is more than one-third of the way through its regular season. But trying to get a solid read on how good the Rainbows are, and how good they could become, is like trying to hit a fastball with movement -- difficult.
Things might become somewhat clearer after UH (14-6) completes a three-game series with Arizona (13-5) this weekend at Les Murakami Stadium.
The Rainbows have won five in a row, but they were all against a very weak Chicago State team last week. The previous week, UH lost all three games against Wichita State.
Arizona, ranked 24th in one poll, might be as good as the Shockers.
The Wildcats are batting .321 as a team and have six regulars hitting higher than .300, including 3-4-5 hitters with more RBIs than games Arizona has played.
First baseman Bill Rhinehart is at .387 with four homers and 19 RBIs, designated hitter C.J. Ziegler leads the team with six homers, and left fielder Brad Glenn is tops with 23 RBIs (one more than Ziegler).
Hawaii will try to slow the powerful Wildcats with a solid pitching staff that has a 2.90 ERA.
After mixing things up with five games in four days last week, UH reverts to its regular pitching rotation. Left-handers Ian Harrington (3-3, 3.12) and Mark Rodrigues (4-1, 3.16) and righty Josh Schneider (2-1, 1.97). Arizona goes with right-hander Preston Guilmet (3-0, 2.50) and southpaw Brad Mills (4-1, 3.18), with Sunday's starter to be announced.
UA and UH start new history at Murakami
Yes, there's history between Hawaii and Arizona in baseball.
Today's Rainbows and Wildcats have no memory of UA beating UH twice to win the College World Series in 1980.
How could they?
ARIZONA (13-5) AT HAWAII (14-6)
When: Tomorrow and Friday, 6:35 p.m.; Saturday, 1:05 p.m.
Where: Les Murakami Stadium
TV: Tomorrow and Sunday, KFVE, Ch. 5
Radio: All three games, KKEA, 1420-AM
Promotion: It's "Kids' Weekend." Youngsters 18 and under receive a free ticket (red level only) with purchase of an adult ticket.
"There's not a player on either team that was born yet," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said, as the Rainbows (14-6) get ready to host the Wildcats (13-5) in a three-game series starting tomorrow. "So we're way past that now. That's for all of us old guys to look back on and talk about. I don't think there's any motivation or any recognition from our players today. It's unfortunate , I guess."
Both teams should be motivated enough this weekend, anyway, as sweeping or taking two of three would be a huge confidence builder for either as they get closer to conference play.
The Rainbows' hopes rest on doing a lot of little things right. They won't be able to overwhelm the Wildcats like they did Chicago State last week.
What does UH need to do to add to its five-game winning streak against a much better team than the Cougars?
"It's just executing and working on the things we do best," Trapasso said. "Hitting to all fields, keeping the ball out of the air, executing the short game when the time calls for that. Throwing the ball down in the zone, making the plays."
UH third baseman Justin Frash is hitting .391 (behind only Arizona-transfer Kris Sanchez's team-leading .437), and getting on-base at a crazy .540 clip. He said the 'Bows might have to make some technical adjustments against the UA pitchers.
"We got down later with our front foot (against Chicago State), because they were a little slower. This week, we'll just get down a little bit earlier. But nothing drastic," Frash said.
When UH lost all three games against Wichita State two weeks ago, the Rainbows pointed at themselves.
"We didn't play too well against Wichita. Granted, they're a good ballclub, but we just didn't play well, all around," Frash said.
Arizona assistant coach Mark Wasikowski knows the Rainbows have a strong home-field advantage. He played third base for UH in 1990 before transferring to Pepperdine.
"Their pitchers throw low strikes and pound the zone," Wasikowski said. "You gotta know how to throw a wet ball and how to use the field when you're hitting. A third baseman will probably drop a pop up if he doesn't pay attention to the wind.
"I'll tell (the Arizona players); hopefully they'll listen."
If the Wildcats -- ranked No. 24 in one national poll -- have a weakness, it is pitching depth. Arizona has lost its last three Sunday series finales, 9-2 at Cal State Fullerton, 8-6 at UNLV and 7-5 five days ago at home to Eastern Michigan.
"I don't blame just the pitching performances," coach Andy Lopez said. "We've had some real bad defense, Sunday at UNLV. And we had just one run after the seventh inning last week.
"We're still waiting for one of our arms to come back," Lopez added.
Ryan Perry was in a motorcycle accident Jan. 10. He might pitch an inning this weekend, the coach said.
Hawaii is 4-2 in series-ending games. Josh Schneider has started four of them on the mound, including three UH wins.
Schneider said he had no idea of the Rainbows' history with the Wildcats. But he sort of has one of his own.
"In junior college (at Cochise Junior College, in Douglas, Ariz.) we used to go up and watch them. It's exciting to think I'm finally going to play against them. ... I want to beat 'em so bad."
Schneider said Arizona took a look at him while he was at Cochise.
"I didn't want to go there, I wanted to be on another team beating up on them," he said.
He hopes being at his Sunday best can help the Rainbows win or sweep the series.
"No matter what the case is, even if they decide to throw their Friday guy on Sunday, I'll just go out there and pitch as well as I can," Schneider said.