Hawaii left-hander Mark Rodrigues pitched to 163 straight batters without giving up a walk. He's 6-1 with a 2.63 ERA.
Rainbows pitchers aim to ‘control’ Spartans
San Jose State baseball coach Sam Piraro said Hawaii is blessed with "pitchers, not throwers."
One of the differences between a pitcher and a thrower is a pitcher can win at times when his deliveries are not sharp.
San Jose State (16-11, 1-2 WAC) at Hawaii (21-9, 2-1)
When: Friday and Saturday, 6:35 p.m.; Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
Where: Les Murakami Stadium
TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
The Spartans (16-11, 1-2 WAC) visit the Rainbows (21-9, 2-1) for a three-game Western Athletic Conference series at Les Murakami Stadium starting tomorrow. UH's staff enters with a sparkling 2.72 team ERA.
"They don't walk people, they're hard to hit, and they locate well," Piraro said of the UH pitchers. "They're well coached and they know how to execute."
And they can do a lot with a little when they have to.
When a pitcher doesn't have his good stuff, he still has to figure out how to get batters out. Part of it is what Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso calls having a "passion for the cup."
In addition to heavy doses of grit and guile, a guy with nothing needs to keep the ball low in the strike zone -- which is something Trapasso and pitching coach Chad Konishi preach anyway.
"The tangible part is that you really focus on command, keeping the ball down. We call it putting it in the cup (referring to aiming for the catcher's protective cup)," Trapasso said. "When you go out and don't have your good stuff you have to focus on command and throw the ball where you want to. I think Mark's (Rodrigues) outing against Arizona was a great example because he didn't have anything."
Rodrigues (6-1, 2.63) went seven scoreless innings in beating the Wildcats, allowing three hits and no walks. He did it with location and by not panicking.
"The natural thing for a pitcher when they don't have good stuff is to overthrow, to try to get the good stuff," Trapasso said. "All you end up doing is having below-average stuff and below-average command."
Control is Rodrigues' strong suit. He has walked four batters all season.
Rodrigues had a walk-less run of 163 batters end Saturday. It started during his second start of the season, Feb. 1.
"I'm just throwing strikes, trying to not get to the 3-0 count. I didn't really know, I just thought I hadn't walked a guy for a couple games."
In tomorrow's series opener, UH lefty Ian Harrington (4-4, 3.40) goes up against San Jose State righty Scott Sobczak (2-1, 4.26). Southpaw Rodrigues faces right-hander Spencer Snodgrass (2-2, 3.31) on Saturday, and the Rainbows' Josh Schneider (2-1, 2.27) meets Steven Vidal (1-1, 4.64) in a matchup of righties on Sunday.
Piraro said the Spartans' pitching isn't where he wants it to be (team ERA is 5.02). But part of the problem might be ongoing renovations at Municipal Stadium in San Jose that include a temporary outfield fence 20 feet closer to home plate.
"It had always been huge, and we played to it," he said.
Murakami Stadium is a pitchers' park, but Piraro said it only helps the Rainbows to a point.
"Anytime you play in a big park, there's some margin for error and you can test the dimensions," he said. "But Hawaii goes deeper than that. Their pitches consistently break down, so they're hard to elevate on."
The Spartans have an ongoing reputation for strong defense. They've made 26 errors this season.
"I think Sam is the best coach in our league. They're one of the best defensive teams in the country every year and they're not going to beat themselves. They're not going to walk guys, they're not going to make errors," Trapasso said. "When you play them, you're going to have to earn it because it's not a game of attrition where you wait for them to make a mistake and you take advantage of it."
Outfielders Donato Giovanatto (.386, three homers, 17 RBIs), and Chris Balatico (.329, five stolen bases in six attempts) lead the San Jose State offense.
"Offensively, we're very inconsistent," Piraro said. "Some days we do what we need to do, other days we don't."
San Jose State lost to Stanford 8-3 in 10 innings Tuesday, and fell victim to a bases-loaded double play in the ninth in a 6-5 loss to New Mexico State on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Hawaii has won six of its last seven after taking two out of three against Nevada last weekend in the WAC-opening series. The victories came on Evan Zimny's three-run walk-off homer in the ninth on Friday and a two-run eighth inning rally on Sunday.
"The only thing lacking with this club was a little swagger," Trapasso said. "I really don't know if this team knows they're as good a team as they are when they play well. They're a pretty good club, when they execute."
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