Clean slate as UH opens WAC play
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Whether Hawaii's 7-13 record is the result of a tough schedule or poor play is of little importance.
All that matters now is what lies ahead as the Rainbows open Western Athletic Conference play with a four-game homestand against defending champion Fresno State tonight at 6:35.
Fresno State at Hawaii; 6:35 p.m. today and tomorrow and 1:05 p.m. doubleheader Saturday; at Les Murakami Stadium; TV: KFVE, Ch. 5; Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM; Tickets: $3-$8
"It's a new season," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "The conference season this year is what we're basing our season on."
The Rainbows have used the first 20 games to try to get better each day. A young and inexperienced pitching staff has had more than a month to work out the kinks and get a feel for collegiate baseball.
Hawaii played some of the best teams in the country with the hope that the tough schedule would make the Rainbows better come conference play.
That time has come and the Rainbows are focused more on the scoreboard than on simply trying to improve with each outing.
"The results will be measured in wins and losses now," Trapasso said. "Up to this point they were always measured in trying to get better."
Hawaii's Jared Alexander gets the start tonight as the Rainbows look to open conference play on a high note.
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Forget the records, the losing streaks and anything else that's happened over the first six weeks of the season.
The Hawaii baseball team opens Western Athletic Conference play tonight with the mind-set that it's a brand new season. How this year's team is judged will be decided by what it does over the next two months.
"As far as we know it starts at 0-0 starting (tonight)," catcher Landon Hernandez said. "We just need to start fresh. The WAC is open for the taking."
Maybe Hawaii's 7-13 start can't completely be ignored, but it doesn't mean anything now that conference play has arrived.
The Rainbows were 19-8 as the preseason favorites when league play started last year and finished below .500 in the conference.
They didn't come close to playing the schedule Hawaii has played this year, and even though Mike Trapasso doesn't want to use it as an excuse, it can't be ignored.
Nine of its 13 losses have come against teams ranked in this week's Baseball America Top 25 poll. Seven of those came against Arizona State, Long Beach State and UC Irvine, which are all ranked in the top nine.
"I don't see how it couldn't (help us)," Trapasso said. "But at the same time, we have to play a lot better."
The Rainbows won't play anybody that good in conference, although their opponent this weekend could be as tough as it gets.
Fresno State is the defending WAC champion and returns seven position starters and all but one pitcher from a season ago.
"Fresno is still the odds-on favorite," Trapasso said. "To open up with them will be a good test for us to see how we can start out."
Only two teams currently have a winning record, and the Bulldogs have gotten off to a disappointing 8-10 start. San Jose State is one of the teams with a winning record at 12-5, but was picked to finish below Hawaii in the poll. The Rainbows were selected to finish fourth.
"Going in I thought (the WAC) would be a little stronger as a whole," Trapasso said. "We're all just so-so right now. Most of us are really right at .500 or below. It makes it interesting to see what's going to happen."
The conference schedule features 32 games, which is the most Hawaii has played under Trapasso, now in his seventh season. All eight series will be four games instead of three, which could decide the eventual champion.
"The concern is going into a four-game series and having the depth to get through it," Trapasso said. "It's all about consistency now from a pitching standpoint."
Matt Daly will continue to pitch out of the bullpen for Hawaii. Nicholas Rhodes will start tomorrow night's game and Josh Slaats will take the mound for Saturday's opener. The starter for the second game of the doubleheader is yet to be determined.
Here's a look at the rest of the WAC in order of preseason rank as voted on by the coaches:
Fresno State (8-10)
Five Bulldogs returnees were first-team All-WAC performers a year ago. Erik Wetzel leads all regulars with a .411 batting average and 21 runs scored. The Bulldogs are hitting .280 as a team while holding opponents to a .255 average. Tanner Scheppers leads a deep pitching staff with a 3-1 record and 1.04 ERA.
Louisiana Tech (13-6)
The Bulldogs have played one of the weaker schedules and committed seven errors in a loss to UL-Lafayette last week. Center fielder Adam Cobb leads the team with five homers and a .385 batting average. The Bulldogs are hitting .298 and have a 3.63 team ERA.
Jason Rodriguez is hitting .526 over the last five games with four home runs and 10 RBIs. The Wolf Pack split two games against two-time defending national champion Oregon State last weekend. Rod Scurry took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and allowed one run over seven in a 10-1 victory against the Beavers.
San Jose State (12-5)
The Spartans got the jump on conference play by taking three of four against Sacramento State. Max Peterson has been their most effective starter with a 2.29 ERA. They have only six home runs this season, but are hitting .281 as a team. Jason Martin, a freshman walk-on, has a 10-game hitting streak and is hitting .333.
Sacramento State (5-11)
The Hornets bounced back from a tough opening series against the Spartans by beating No. 12 California on Tuesday. David Flores owns the school record for doubles with 39. The Hornets lost over half of their letter-winners from a season ago. Senior Taylor Watanabe, a 2003 Aiea graduate, is hitting .318 with nine runs scored.
New Mexico State (6-9)
The Aggies are hitting .324 as a team but have an outrageous 10.72 ERA. They have given up at least 11 runs in nine of their 15 games and have lost four straight. Chris Auten is one of 13 players hitting over .300 and leads the team with 21 hits and three home runs.