RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii shortstop Jon Hee was part of a lineup shuffle that sparked the Rainbows' turnaround from a 4-16 start.
Hawaii primed for Sacramento State series
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Sacramento State (19-23, 10-9 WAC) at Hawaii (21-14, 13-11)
When: Tomorrow, 6:35 p.m., Saturday (2) and Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
TV: KFVE, Ch. 5.
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
The Hawaii baseball team welcomes Sacramento State to Les Murakami Stadium this weekend without one of its key second-half spark plugs.
Freshman outfielder Sean Montplaisir jammed his shoulder diving into third base against Louisiana Tech last Saturday and isn't on the roster for Hawaii's upcoming four-game series against the Hornets.
He was scheduled to undergo an MRI yesterday to find out his status for the rest of the season.
"He's not going to be available to us," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "Knock on wood, Monty's the only guy now that's out."
Montplaisir was thrust into the leadoff spot in the order after the Rainbows were swept by the Hornets in Sacramento to fall to 2-6 in league play.
Since then, Hawaii is 12-5 overall and 11-2 when Montplaisir hits at the top of the order.
Sophomore Matt Roquemore is expected to fill the freshman's role.
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The Hawaii baseball team Sacramento State sees this weekend will have a much different look to it than just over a month ago.
When the Hornets last played the Rainbows at the end of March, they saw a tired Hawaii team slump off the field after being swept.
The Rainbows were 4-16 in their last 20 games after that series and tied for last place in the Western Athletic Conference.
"At that point we knew that we had to make some changes," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "We did that from a positional standpoint and from a lineup standpoint."
Shortstop Jon Hee moved from first to third in the order and freshman Sean Montplaisir and senior Derek DuPree hit in the top two spots as Trapasso went with more of a speed and execution lineup.
The move paid off instantly, as Hawaii snapped a streak of nine losses against ranked teams with a win at then-No. 13 Stanford. It proceeded to take three of four at San Jose State and has not lost a series since, going 11-5 in WAC play.
"The fact that we got swept by Sacramento State was almost a slap in the face," pitcher Jared Alexander said. "We were able to turn the page and we responded well."
Meanwhile, the Hornets got as high as 8-3 in conference play, but come off a four-game sweep by New Mexico State and have lost six in a row.
"It's been kind of tough," Sacramento State coach John Smith said. "The crazy thing was, (Tuesday night) we played with the passion that we had been playing with previously. We'll have to bring that passion to Hawaii or else we're going to get smoked."
Hawaii faced a desperate Louisiana Tech team last weekend that took out its frustration against the 'Bows, jacking 14 home runs in four games.
The odds are good the same firepower won't be seen at pitcher-friendly Les Murakami Stadium. The Hornets have put themselves in the middle of the pack with their recent struggles. They are another team entering a series against Hawaii feeling their backs slowly being pushed against the wall.
This series is crucial for both squads. The Hornets trail the 'Bows by a half-game, but have beaten UH four times already.
"The truth is, we're well behind Sac State in the head-to-head series because they flat out took it to us at their place," Trapasso said. "Because they lost a few games in a row, I don't think that's going to shake their confidence."
The Hornets are one of two teams hitting over .300 in conference play. Designated hitter Wes Oberlin is in the top 10 in the WAC with a .389 batting average and outfielder Gabe Jacobo has a team-high 12 home runs.
The Hornets also feature two local products in senior catcher Brett Tanigawa (Moanalua '03) and senior infielder Taylor Watanabe (Aiea '03).
Both have seen limited action due to arm injuries, but are expected to see the field against the 'Bows.
"Both of them are better now and probably the best they have been in a long time," Smith said.
Whether the Sacramento State series was the turnaround point for the Rainbows this season is meaningless. UH has played solid baseball for a full month and needs to continue it with the WAC tourney three weeks away.
"All that matters now is that we're playing well," catcher Landon Hernandez said. "Obviously getting swept by Sacramento State is not fun. We're looking forward to payback this weekend."