Past, present UH baseball teams meet
New schedule will test Hawaii’s pitching depth
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The Hawaii baseball team will make its first public appearance of the season today with the annual alumni game at 1 p.m. at Les Murakami Stadium.
Former players Kris Sanchez, Mark Rodrigues, Matt Inouye and Kenny Harrison are just some of the alumni scheduled to participate.
It'll be the first opportunity for fans to see this year's baseball team in action. Hawaii officially opens the season Friday at home against UH-Hilo.
"It's a good chance to play somebody else for a change," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "They're tired of the same routine."
With a number of freshman expected to contribute right away, today will give them a dress rehearsal for normal pregame routines.
The game itself won't be a walk in the park for the Rainbows. The alumni team is expected to feature a host of players still playing professionally.
"They will probably have more talent on it than who we will face in two or three regular-season series we have this year because of all the guys playing pro ball who are coming back for it," Trapasso said.
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Hawaii's mental toughness and physical conditioning will be tested more than ever this year.
A new rule goes into effect this season that all Western Athletic Conference baseball series will be four games instead of the previous three.
That means each series will feature a Saturday doubleheader, which will make a team's overall depth, especially concerning pitching, that much more important.
"Those are really going to be different and something we're all going to have to get used to," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said.
It could also make for some wild Sunday games, as teams will be forced to use more pitchers to throw increased innings.
"It could really dilute the quality of baseball, but that's what the NCAA is doing to us," Trapasso said.
The added game is a response to the NCAA pushing back the season's starting date, forcing Hawaii to play 56 games in 92 days. The Rainbows opened the season last year in late January.
Hawaii could be affected by the changes because pitching is where the Rainbows are the least experienced.
Junior Matt Daly will anchor the rotation and is scheduled to start the season opener on Friday against UH-Hilo, but Trapasso says that could change.
Freshman Alex Capaul and Josh Slaats and junior college transfers Jared Alexander and Alex Baits are just some of the names expected to fill in for 18-game starters Mark Rodrigues and Ian Harrington from a year ago.
Trapasso doesn't have a rotation set yet and expects it to change during the season as he finds out what he's going to get from all the new faces.
"We have the talent; they're just inexperienced and young," Trapasso said. "They just need to get out there and get in."
The position player most affected by the rule change is junior catcher Landon Hernandez. Hernandez started all but two games for the Rainbows last year, but will be limited to just one game on doubleheader days for most of the season.
"If you try to catch him four games, he's going to tire out and you're going to see his bat affected, too," Trapasso said.
Hernandez hit .296 last year and was fourth on the team in RBIs. Backup Kevin Fujii will be thrust into the lineup more often, but Hernandez said he doesn't mind playing both games if needed.
"It'll be one of those things where you'll have to suck it up and have the Sunday-tough mentality," Hernandez said. "I love to play baseball, but it's all up to the coach though."
The Rainbows have stayed fairly healthy, but will be without a couple of freshman pitchers to start the season.
Right-hander Mike Griffin had surgery to remove a blood clot from his shoulder over Christmas break and is "probably out for the year," according to Trapasso.
Another right-hander, Sean Soto, didn't play all fall after injuring his knee and has some physical issues to deal with, Trapasso said.