DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Eight seniors will be playing their final regular-season series this weekend when Hawaii takes on Fresno State today at Les Murakami Stadium.
UH seniors confident
It's a five-letter word that college baseball teams not in the Top 25 aren't supposed to have in their vocabulary.
Players to be honored on senior night
» Eli Christensen, SS, Provo, Utah: The second-year starter is finishing strong again, batting .411 in his last 30 games. He is hitting .331 overall.
» Tyler Davis, P, Walnut Creek, Calif.: The Rainbows' bullpen ace improved his velocity this year and is 4-2 with a team-high four saves.
» Jorge Franco, OF, Gardena, Calif.: He began the season as starting left fielder and leadoff batter. Second on team with seven stolen bases, in eight tries.
» Justin Frash, 3B, Camarillo, Calif.: His tremendous batting eye led to 47 walks and .483 on-base percentage. Has followed up .359 average last year with .346 this season.
» Ian Harrington, P, Renton, Wash.: Preseason WAC Pitcher of the Year picked up two WAC Pitcher of the Week awards this year.
» Mark Rodrigues, P, Koloa, Kauai: Leads UH with 8-3 record.
» Kris Sanchez, 1B, Tucson, Ariz.: He batted more than .400 most of season. Leads Hawaii with .383 average, 23 doubles, three triples, 10 homers and 63 RBIs, for one of the best single-season batting performances in the history of the program.
» Jeff Soskin, P, Alameda, Calif.: He allowed four earned runs in 10 1/3 innings pitched in seven appearances. Pitched 3.1 effective innings against Arizona State.
But a couple of Hawaii's eight seniors don't care. They're willing to say Omaha -- home of the College World Series -- with a straight face. The Rainbows veterans were part of an outfit that was good enough to dream last year -- and to play in the regionals for the first time since 1993 -- and they're not giving up on the idea of extending their college careers deep into the summer as one of the final eight teams to get to Rosenblatt Stadium.
"So far (last year's regional) is the best memory I have of here," relief pitcher Tyler Davis said. "But I'm hoping that this year we can make a new one and try to make it to Omaha."
Quite a bit of bravado for a team with a record of just 31-22 and 9-12 in conference play headed into tonight's opener of a three-game season-closing set against Fresno State. Tonight's game at Les Murakami Stadium starts at 6:35.
But the Rainbows feel they can win next week's Western Athletic Conference tournament and the bid to the regionals that goes with it.
Jeff Soskin hasn't played that much for UH in his two years, but the senior left-handed reliever also counts last year's regional as his career highlight, and hopes the Rainbows can take it a step further this time.
"Last year was pretty incredible, going to the regional and everything like that," Soskin said. "This year's not over and we have our sights set on Omaha. It's been an up-and-down season, but that's the great thing about the WAC tournament, anything can happen. You start fresh, new schedule, new lineup. We have no qualms about (talking about) going to Omaha."
This senior class is interesting in that it is made up completely of junior college transfers. Although they were together only two years, the group built a strong bond.
"Everyone gets along," Soskin said. "We're like brothers on and off the field. It's pretty special. You really don't see this on a baseball team a lot. You usually see a lot of selfish individuals. This is a real team, where guys do things for the other guy."
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
These UH seniors will be honored at their last home game, Monday against Fresno State at Les Murakami Stadium. Left to right: Justin Frash, Kris Sanchez, Jorge Franco, Eli Christensen, Mark Rodrigues, Tyler Davis, Jeff Soskin and Ian Harrington.
Lefty Mark Rodrigues has been around the longest of the seniors, since a redshirt season and the NCAA granting him an extra year because of injury gave him four years at Manoa. Rodrigues is scheduled to start Monday's home finale.
"That last game for senior night, it's kind of big to me, probably the last time I play on this field. I'm just going to go out there and give it my best," said Rodrigues, a Kauai High School graduate. "I wasn't ever fortunate enough to come here (to watch games as a youngster), but I used to watch it on KFVE. I always wanted to be part of the legacy of Les Murakami and playing here was something I always wanted to do."
Coach Mike Trapasso said the 2007 seniors helped create a legacy themselves with last season's achievements.
"This senior group was important to this program. They've been able to accomplish a lot," Trapasso said. "Last year they got the program established again, back into the Top 25 and the regionals. They were able to put the finishing touches on getting the program back into the national spotlight. This year we're trying to sustain that and get into postseason play again."