JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii will need infielder Jon Hee to hit well if the 'Bows are going to win the WAC tournament.
UH faces hot hitters
‘Bows taking a swing at WAC tournament title
STORY SUMMARY »
Despite all the problems the Rainbow baseball team has had this season, Hawaii enters the Western Athletic Conference tournament as the No. 2 seed.
"For our kids to finish in second place this year with the way we started as a young club I thought was a great accomplishment," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "Now, it doesn't mean a thing if you go out and lay an egg. But it's still a great accomplishment no matter how we do."
The Rainbows open the four-day tournament with fifth-seeded New Mexico State tomorrow (10 a.m. Hawaii time). Senior Nick Rhodes gets the start as the Rainbows attempt to make it to Sunday with their pitching rotation a mess.
Junior Alex Bates missed the trip with elbow problems and freshman Alex Capaul was left home after breaking his jaw in batting practice prior to last Thursday's game against Utah Valley.
Jared Alexander is with the team in Ruston, La., but Trapasso wasn't optimistic he'd be able to pitch.
"I wouldn't bet on it," he said. "We are a M*A*S*H unit on the mound. We're pretty banged up."
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Hawaii's reward for leapfrogging Nevada for second place on the final day of the regular season is the most dangerous offensive team in the Western Athletic Conference.
WAC baseball tournament
Tomorrow-Sunday, J.C. Love Field, Ruston, La.; Radio: KKEA 1420-AM; TV: Free live stream of all games available for viewing at www.wac.tv.com.
Tomorrow's opening-round games: No. 1 Fresno State vs. No. 6 Sacramento State, 6 a.m.; No. 2 Hawaii vs. No. 5 New Mexico State, 10 a.m.; No. 3 Nevada vs. No. 4 San Jose State, 2 p.m.
Fifth-seeded New Mexico State, which leads the league in almost every meaningful offensive category, will take on the Rainbows in the opening round of the WAC tournament beginning tomorrow in Ruston, La. (10 a.m. Hawaii time).
"After eight games against this lineup, I've seen them enough," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "They can flat out hit. We're going to have to come right out of the gate and get a good outing of (Nick) Rhodes."
Rhodes, who will start for the 'Bows, faced the Aggies twice this season, lasting 5 1/3 innings in both outings. He allowed three runs in a victory at home on April 11 and took the loss after surrendering five earned runs in a loss May 9.
New Mexico State leads the WAC with 97 home runs and boasts the conference's only .400 hitter in Tyler Hardt. Power-hitting Joseph Scaperotta leads the league with 22 home runs and has five in eight games against the Rainbows.
"Obviously they are a power-hitting team, so the only thing I'm thinking about now is keeping the ball down," Rhodes said. "That is the biggest thing for me."
The Aggies went 3-5 against the Rainbows this season and are making their first appearance in the WAC tournament.
Hawaii was also the second seed two seasons ago when it made it to the final day of the tournament and earned an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.
Senior Jon Hee was one of eight Rainbows to play on that team. He uses that experience to motivate his teammates to try and get back there.
"I've definitely shared with them the experience of going to the regional and that feeling of playing on the national stage," Hee said. "It's something to work towards and I'm sure everyone is excited to try and get there, too."
No. 1 Fresno State (33-27, 21-11 WAC)
Against Hawaii: 2-2
Key players: 1B Alan Ahmady (.386, 10 HRs, 74 RBIs), 2B Erik Wetzel (.362, 78 runs, 10 SBs), OF Steve Susdorf (.341, 9 HRs, 68 RBIs), RHP Tanner Scheppers (8-2, 2.93 ERA, 109 Ks, .202 BAA)
Notes: The Bulldogs, the two-time defending tournament champions, are the No. 1 seed for the third year in a row. Senior Brandon Burke earned the save in the Bulldogs' regular-season finale to become the school's all-time saves leader with 18.
No. 2 Hawaii (27-29, 18-14)
Key players: OF Brandon Haislet (.371, 48 runs, 18 2Bs, 10 SBs), SS Jon Hee (.368, 82 hits, .457 OBP), OF Jeff Van Doornum (.292, 20 2Bs, 34 RBIs), RHP Jared Alexander (7-3, 3.27 ERA, 15 BBs, 63 Ks)
Notes: LHP Nick Rhodes has three complete games and RHP Matt Daly is second in the WAC with 78 strikeouts. Overcame a 9-19 start to go 12-5 in April and won or split final six WAC series. Leads the league with .974 fielding percentage.
No. 3 Nevada (31-24, 18-14)
Against Hawaii: 1-3
Key players: 3B Jason Rodriguez (.391, 81 hits, 20 2Bs, .614 SLG), 1B Shaun Kort (.337, 6 HRs, 57 RBIs), OF Matt Bowman (.359, 51 runs, 18 2Bs, 9 SBs), RHP Kyle Howe (8-2, 3.55 ERA, .232 BAA, 5 CG)
Notes: Swept by SJSU in final four-game series of the season to finish tied for second with UH. Finished second in the league in team slugging and on-base percentage. Rodriguez finished second in the WAC in batting average and Howe is tied for the league lead with eight wins.
No. 4 San Jose State (31-23, 17-14)
Against Hawaii: 1-3
Key players: 1B Danny Stienstra (.374, 68 hits, 32 RBIs), RHP Scott Sobczak (4-2, 3.97 ERA, 50 Ks, 3 CG), OF Jason Martin (.300, 34 runs, .436 OBP), 3B Kyle Bellows (.279, 17 2Bs, 42 RBIs)
Notes: On a season-high, five-game winning streak heading into the tournament. Max Peterson was named WAC pitcher of the week after tossing a six-hit shutout last weekend against Nevada. Second in the WAC with 4.90 team ERA.
No. 5 New Mexico State (28-31, 15-17)
Against Hawaii: 3-5
Key players: DH Tyler Hardt (.401, 46 runs, .667 SLG), OF Joseph Scaperotta (.317, 22 HRs, 80 RBIs), OF Franky Busani (.333, 16 HRs, 60 RBIs), 1B Chris Auten (.366, 89 hits, 61 runs, 55 RBIs), RHP Heath Goin (4-2, 3.70 ERA)
Notes: Playing in first WAC tournament in school history. The 97 total home runs are 25 more than next closest WAC team. Hardt led the league as only player batting over .400. Scaperotta's 22 home runs also led the WAC.
No. 6 Sacramento State (23-32, 14-17)
Against Hawaii: 5-3
Key players: 1B/OF Gabe Jacobo (.379, 83 hits, 14 HRs, 65 RBIs), 3B David Flores (.373, 51 runs, 26 2Bs, 79 hits), 1B/DH Wes Oberlin (.328, 12 HRs, .568 SLG), OF Ryan Blair (.341, 75 hits, 51 runs, 15 SBs)
Notes: Only WAC team to have a winning record against the 'Bows. Led the WAC with .311 batting average. Team ERA is over six runs a game and no starting pitchers have an ERA under 5.00. Started WAC season 10-4, but lost 13 of final 17 league games.