UH tries to improve its play on mainland
Rainbows arrive in California for 9 games
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Hawaii's young pitching staff is coming off its best series of the season, but can it continue away from Les Murakami Stadium?
Hawaii (9-15, 2-2 WAC) at Sacramento State (5-14, 1-3); 11 a.m. tomorrow, 8 a.m. Saturday (2), 10 a.m. Sunday; Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
That question will be answered over the next two weeks as the Rainbow baseball team begins its longest road trip of the season with a four-game Western Athletic Conference series against Sacramento State starting tomorrow at Hornet Field.
The Rainbows held Fresno State to nine runs over 37 innings last week at home, but on the road they are 1-6 and have allowed 68 runs in seven games.
The rotation for the first three games remains the same, as Jared Alexander will start the opener and senior Nick Rhodes and freshman Josh Slaats will take the mound in Saturday's doubleheader.
Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso hasn't settled on Sunday's starter, but made it clear it won't be Matt Daly, who has made five starts this season.
"We're going to leave him in the bullpen even if we don't use him the first three games," Trapasso said. "That's where he is the most effective and it will help him as much as it helps the team."
The Rainbows finish the trip with a nonconference game against No. 17 Stanford next Tuesday followed by a four-game WAC set at San Jose State.
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The Hawaii baseball team returns to the Golden State hoping for a much better outcome then its last visit.
The Rainbows arrived in California yesterday to prepare for a stretch of nine games in 10 days on the road, beginning with a four-game series against Sacramento State.
Hawaii's last trip to the West Coast went horribly, as the Rainbows pummeled by No. 7 UC Irvine. The Anteaters swept the series in dominant fashion, outscoring the Rainbows 36-7.
"Nobody on our whole team did well," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "I don't even look at that series."
Jared Alexander has been the only pitcher to perform decently on the road, but the Rainbows are encouraged by recent performances by senior Nick Rhodes and freshman Josh Slaats.
Rhodes was named the WAC pitcher of the week after throwing 8 2/3 shutout innings over the weekend against the Bulldogs.
"These next two series (Sacramento State and San Jose State) are really important for us to get the ball rolling," Rhodes said. "These teams are teams we should beat. As long as we keep the same energy we had (against Fresno State), we should be fine."
Two of Rhodes' three starts have been at home. He was one out away from going the distance in both games at Les Murakami Stadium.
Rhodes has given Hawaii a much-needed spark with his ability to eat up innings, but only recorded three outs while giving up seven hits and six runs in his only road start.
He's at his best when able to change speeds effectively and keep hitters off balance. Although Rhodes tends to be more successful at night -- when it's harder for opponents to see the movement of his pitches -- he will start the first game of Saturday's daytime doubleheader (8 a.m. Hawaii time).
"I've got to keep the ball down and try to roll more ground balls instead of getting fly balls," Rhodes said. "The ball is going to fly a little more. We're not going to be able to get away with things that you can get away with (at home)."
The entire staff faces a tough challenge to remain effective on the road and will look to get some help from an offense that has had its struggles of late.
"We're going into a couple of hitters' ballparks, so it'll be harder to pitch as well as we did this past weekend," Trapasso said. "We're capable of giving up more runs in these ballparks, but you make up for that by scoring more runs."
It hasn't been easy for the Rainbows, who managed just eight runs in all four games against the Bulldogs. Hawaii hasn't scored more than four runs in any of its last 13 games and is hitting .237 as a team.
Brandon Haislet is the only regular starter hitting over .300.
"The last couple of weeks we've shown signs of greatness on both sides," Rhodes said. "Now we have to come together and jell. We've got to have that balance and we haven't found that yet."
Hawaii has spent the last few practices putting an emphasis on executing during different situations and not giving up free outs.
Taking advantage of those situations when they present itself will be critical if the Rainbows want to come out of this road trip with a winning record.
"We've got to get the little things done and avoid the small things that have cost us games," second baseman Jon Hee said. "Pitching and position players both have to show up and compete for a full nine innings."
» Freshman shortstop Greg Garcia is on the traveling roster, but Trapasso says he doesn't anticipate him being ready for the series against the Hornets. Garcia sprained his ankle against UC Irvine and has missed the past five games. Senior Ryan Asato won't play the next two weeks, still hampered by a hamstring injury.
» Alex Bates has continued to throw pain free off the mound and could be back in time for the Rainbows' next home series against New Mexico State. He has missed the entire season with a shoulder injury.
» Taylor Watanabe (Aiea '03) and Brett Tanigawa (Moanalua '03) play for Sacramento State. Watanabe has played in 10 games and is hitting .320 with nine runs scored. Tanigawa is hitting .235 and has played in 11 games, including two as the starting catcher.