Cold, Metrodome await Rainbows on first road trip


POSTED: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sophomore Greg Garcia might be the only Hawaii baseball player expecting to see a familiar face in Minnesota.




Dairy Queen Classic opponents

        Washington (1-2)

        Last weekend: Dropped two of three against Fresno State

Notes: Huskies went 2-1 in their only appearance in this tournament (1997). Senior right-hander Jorden Merry will start against UH. First-team All-Pac-10 as a junior, Merry was drafted in the 14th round of MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox, but chose to return for senior year. He finished 8-2 with a 3.61 ERA last season. Allowed one ER in five innings against FSU last weekend, walking three and striking out eight.


UC Santa Barbara (3-1)
        Last weekend: Dropped opener 8-7 against Saint Louis before back-to-back shutouts of Cal State Bakersfield and Westmont (Calif). Upset No. 9 UCLA 7-6 last night.


Notes: Projected by Baseball America to play in a postseason regional this season. UH could see left-hander Mario Hollands, last season's Big West freshman pitcher of the year. Hollands threw eight shutout innings against Cal State Bakersfield, allowing four hits and striking out six. Seniors Brian Gump and Shane Carlson are both hitting at least .400 with three home runs each.


Minnesota (2-1)
        Last weekend: Blown out by Seton Hall in opener before coming back and beating West Virginia and Michigan State in Big Ten/Big East Challenge.


Notes: Young team with 13 freshmen expected to contribute this season. All-Big 10 center fielder Matt Nohelty was drafted by the hometown Twins in the 18th round of the MLB draft, but returned to school. Only one of its three starting pitchers made it to the fifth inning last weekend. Junior Eric Decker is off to a good start, going 7-for-13 with three runs scored and a stolen base.




The Rainbows (1-3) embark on their farthest road trip of the season to Minneapolis to take part in the Dairy Queen Classic, which starts Friday in the Metrodome.

The Rainbows, who play a game against Minnesota tomorrow before their tournament opener a day later against Washington, are coming off a 7-4 win over then-No. 9 UC Irvine Sunday to avoid a four-game sweep.

In addition to the nearly 4,000-mile journey, the Rainbows will experience a coldness many of them have never felt. Tomorrow's forecast calls for a high of 18 degrees, and a low reaching minus-8.

“;I don't know if I want to hear about it,”; said Garcia, the team's starting shortstop. “;It's a good thing we're playing in a dome.”;

All four games this week will take place in the Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Twins. The Rainbows will play the Golden Gophers twice, including once in the tournament, and also have games against the Huskies and UC Santa Barbara.

“;Everyone is really geeked up to get a chance to play in a major league stadium,”; Garcia said. “;This might be the only shot you get and I think everyone is going to cherish that moment and enjoy playing those four games up there.”;

Minnesota became Garcia's home away from home last summer. As soon as the Rainbows wrapped up the WAC tournament last season in Ruston, La., Garcia was on a plane up north to take part in the Northwoods Summer League as a member of the Brainerd Blue Thunder.

He played baseball straight through August before returning to Hawaii to get ready for fall practice.

“;That's how you got to do it now,”; Garcia said. “;You've got to keep playing baseball.”;

Brainerd, home to roughly 13,000 people, was a different experience for Garcia, who's from El Cajon, Calif. He expects to have at least one fan in the stands this weekend when his summer mom from that league is expected to make the trip to Minneapolis.

“;She's coming down for the game so that'll be cool,”; Garcia said.

Garcia is one of 28 players on the 34-man roster that hail from either Hawaii or California. Most of them were stumped just figuring out what to pack for temperatures that almost surely will drop below zero.

“;I have no idea what I'm going to wear,”; first baseman Kevin Macdonald said Sunday.

Garcia, always one with the answers, had some sound advice, saying, “;Pack some jackets and jeans and leave the board shorts and flip-flops at home.”;

The elements will be different, but the Rainbows will try not to let the momentum gained from last weekend's series slip away. Hawaii lost three of four against UC Irvine, which jumped to fifth in this week's Baseball America rankings, but did not allow more than five runs in any of the contests against the Anteaters.

Three of the four starting pitchers last weekend did so for the first time, and with the exception of Alex Capaul on Saturday, all of them went at least six innings.

“;We couldn't ask any more out of them,”; Garcia said. “;If we can hold a team to four or five runs, we should win most of those games.”;

Jayson Kramer, who threw a solid 6 2/3 innings in the opener last Friday, will start tomorrow's game against Minnesota. Nate Klein, who gutted out six innings after allowing four runs in the first, is expected to start Friday's game against the Huskies, who lost two of three against defending national champion Fresno State last weekend.