Rainbows look to
close season with
A sweep of San Diego StateBy Paul Arnett
would give them their first
.500 WAC finish in five years
The five seniors for the University of Hawaii baseball team were a part of a last-gasp turnaround that occurred one weekend too late.
Over the last half of 1997, the Rainbows rarely resembled the team that went 6-22 in the first half as they tried to right the ship in time for next week's Western Athletic Conference tournament.
Had San Diego State been a bit more cooperative down the stretch, tonight's conference series opener at Rainbow Stadium would mean much more than it does now.
The Rainbows trail the Aztecs by four games for the sixth and final spot in the league tournament. A sweep would still leave them one game short of making their first postseason appearance since 1993.
Of the five seniors, only Andrew McNally was around for that NCAA Regional at Texas A&M University. The talented pitcher helped lead Hawaii to a 9-8 win in the opener over North Carolina.
McNally, who has been to the Olympics and back since, never imagined that would be the last time the Rainbows would make a regional appearance.
Neither did fellow seniors Robert Medeiros, Robby Robinson, Daven Hermosura and Daren Masanda, who weren't with McNally four years ago, but have all played a part in Hawaii's recent struggles.
"We just didn't get things going soon enough," UH head coach Les Murakami said. "We had our chances to win two at San Jose State and didn't.
"Then we come back and are swept at home for the first time by Utah. That bad start put a lot of pressure on us to do well on this recent road trip. If we could have just won one of those close games (with Fresno State and Brigham Young University), we would still have a chance.
"I'm proud of the way these kids turned things around. I feel sorry for the seniors because they won't get a chance to be in the postseason, but they helped the young guys learn how to win."
Medeiros, McNally, Masanda and Hermosura played key roles in Hawaii's recent run. The Rainbows are 10-6 en route to winning four of the last five league series, including those at San Diego State and Fresno State.
Medeiros has hit safely in 15 of those games, and is an astonishing 32-for-64 in that stretch. The Big Island boy is hitting .384 for the season. He also leads the Rainbows in RBIs with 53 and home runs with eight.
His on-base percentage is .473 and his slugging percentage is .622, making him the most valuable player in this recent run.
"He's done everything we've asked him to do," Murakami said of Medeiros, who also has been slowed with ankle and back injuries. "He can play practically anywhere on the field."
Masanda also has done his part. Despite a bum knee that will likely require surgery, the transfer from Arkansas has played a steady second base, committing only six errors in 295 chances.
He also went 6-for-13 at BYU to raise his season average to .289. Throw in Hermosura's 4-1 record in the last five series and McNally's 2-1 mark, and it's easy to see the value of these seniors.
"If Andrew had been healthy all season and Daven been academically eligible from the start, we would be in the WAC tournament, no question," Murakami said. "Even after going 0-8 in league play, we still have a chance to finish .500. I think that's something the kids are playing for."
Hawaii enters tonight's game against San Diego State with a 12-15 league mark and overall record of 20-33. It will be the first losing season for the Rainbows since they went to an all-collegiate schedule in 1975.
If Hawaii manages to sweep the Aztecs, it will be the first time the Rainbows have finished .500 or better in league play since 1992.
Murakami said he will go with Hermosura (5-4, 6.32) in the opener. McNally (3-3, 6.33) is scheduled for tomorrow's game with freshman Dusty Bergman (1-5, 7.78) set for Sunday's finale.
San Diego State likely will counter with Brian Scott (7-3, 3.71), former UH pitcher Chad Wanders (8-3, 2.82) and Justin Brunette (5-3, 3.92). The Aztecs finished a three-game set with UH-Hilo yesterday.
This is the 130th time the two teams have met with Hawaii holding a 70-59 advantage.
YEE WINS USHIJIMA AWARD: Ben Yee will be honored with the 1997 Charles Ushijima Award before tonight's game.
Yee was a longtime volunteer with the Hawaii football program. He began as an active volunteer in 1965 when UH assistant Larry Price asked him to help then head coach Clark Shaughnessy.
Yee is the sixth recipient of the award that was first given to Ushijima in 1992.
UH vs. SDSUThe series Hawaii (20-33, 12-15 WAC) vs. San Diego State (37-18-1, 16-11)
When/Where 7:05 p.m. today and tomorrow, 3:05 p.m. Sunday at Rainbow Stadium
TV Live on KFVE
Radio Live on KCCN 1420-AM