Quality of early foes could benefit 'Bows


POSTED: Thursday, April 02, 2009

No Western Athletic Conference team has come close to playing the quality of opponents the Hawaii baseball team has faced.





        When: 6:35 p.m. tomorrow

TV: KFVE, Ch. 5


Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM




That much is clear.

How much that will help in league play remains to be seen.

The Rainbows open the 24-game WAC season tomorrow night against San Jose State feeling pretty good about themselves.

Hawaii (16-9) is coming off three straight wins over nationally ranked Coastal Carolina and has won 13 of its last 16 games since starting the season 3-6.

After battling ranked teams and top-level competition from the SEC, West Coast Conference, Pac-10 and Big Ten, among others, the Rainbows turn their attention to a league that features defending national champion Fresno State and two teams in New Mexico State and the Spartans that have already combined for 40 wins this year.

“;It's interesting because you've got some teams really playing well,”; Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. “;San Jose State and New Mexico State have absolutely ridiculous records.”;

The knock on both teams is the lack of quality opponents faced early in the season. Both squads have schedules ranked below 250 according to warrennolan.com, which ranks college teams based on different formulas, including a ratings percentage index.

According to the site, 14 of the Aggies' 21 wins have come against teams with an RPI below 200, and they are 1-1 in two games against teams with an RPI above 50. The Spartans haven't played a much tougher schedule, going 19-2 against teams with an RPI below 100 and 0-3 vs. teams above 100.

In contrast, Hawaii has gone 8-8 in its 16 games against teams with an RPI above 50 and hasn't played a team with an RPI below 200.

The numbers favor Hawaii, but are exactly that to Trapasso, just numbers.

“;If we think that because we played a good schedule and have come out of it with our heads above water that we can just go out there and throw our gloves on the field and win, we're going to be proven wrong in a hurry,”; Trapasso said.

“;You can say what you want about their competition they're playing, but I look at it as you play to win and no matter who you're playing, when you're winning games you develop a mind-set that gets used to winning and they are really playing well.”;

Hawaii will play every team once in a four-game series instead of doubling up home and away against two teams as it did a year ago. The 'Bows host the Spartans, Sacramento State and Louisiana Tech and travel to Nevada, Fresno State and New Mexico State.

Fresno State, a year removed from its run to a national title, has seen itself fall out of the Top 25 in polls after a 13-11 start. But it isn't unfamiliar territory to the Bulldogs, who are one of the best second-half teams in the country.

“;You never look at how Fresno plays in the first half of the season,”; Trapasso said. “;They just turn it up a notch at the halfway point and always finish strong. People forget when they won the national title last year they were top 15 preseason.”;

Eight fewer league games means every one counts just a little more when it comes to seeding for the WAC tournament at the end of the year.

“;It puts more emphasis on every game,”; Trapasso said. “;You can't take a weekend off. You do that and it can cost you a couple of spots in the final standings.”;

Hawaii will go with its same rotation at the top, as Jayson Kramer (1-3, 3.60 ERA) will oppose left-hander David Berner (5-0, 2.25) in tomorrow night's series opener at 6:35 at Les Murakami Stadium. A couple of preseason All-WAC selections in Jared Alexander (0-1, 4.58 ERA) and Max Peterson (5-0, 2.70) will start the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, followed by freshman Matt Sisto (3-1, 3.69) against Ryan Shopshire (1-1, 4.79). Shopshire tossed a four-hit shutout against the 'Bows last year in San Jose in his first career collegiate start.

“;Their staff has good numbers for sure,”; Hawaii shortstop Greg Garcia said. “;We've got to keep playing Hawaii baseball by getting good pitching, play good defense and get some timely hits.”;

Here's a look at the WAC based on the preseason coaches poll (Ratings Percentage Index and Strength of Schedule numbers from warrennolan.com):


1. Fresno State (14-11)

WAC opener: vs. New Mexico State, April 10-12

RPI: 174

SOS: 221

Key players: Danny Muno, Soph., SS (.371, 25 runs, nine 2Bs), Tommy Mendonca, Jr., 3B (.333, 11 HRs, 32 RBIs), Jake Floethe, Soph., RHP (3-1, 2.65 ERA, 29 K's)

Notes: The defending national champion Bulldogs were swept by Loyola Marymount a week after UH did the same to the Lions. The Bulldogs have plenty of offense, even with Steve Detwiller (.260, three extra-base hits, eight RBIs) and Gavin Hedstrom (.268) still trying to find their swings. Floethe and Holden Sprague (2-0, 2.93 ERA) are holding it down at the top of the rotation, but lack of pitching depth is hurting the Bulldogs early on.


2. San Jose State (19-5)

WAC opener: at Hawaii, tomorrow-Sunday

RPI: 97

SOS: 253

Key players: Kyle Bellows, Jr., SS (.380, six 2Bs, 23 runs), Max Peterson, Jr., LHP (5-0, 2.70 ERA, 36 K's), David Berner, Sr., LHP (5-0, 2.25 ERA, 47 K's, two CGs)

Notes: The Spartans have two tough lefties at the top of the rotation who combined have held opposing hitters under .200 batting. A team ERA of 3.62 and a team .346 batting average have helped the Spartans win 19 games already. Much better at home (14-2) than on the road (5-3).


3. Nevada (11-15)

WAC opener: at Louisiana Tech, tomorrow-Sunday

RPI: 173

SOS: 144

Key players: Shaun Kort, Jr., 1B (.300, seven 2Bs, 17 RBIs), Brock Stassi, Soph., LHP (3-3, 3.09 ERA, 35 IP), Nick Melino, Fr., OF (.347, .458 OBP, six 2Bs)

Notes: Wolf Pack are slowly making their way back after 2-7 start. Preseason All-WAC second baseman Matt Bowman leads the team with four home runs, but only has 10 RBIs and is hitting .214. Defense has been a problem (39 errors in 16 games). Other then Stassi, starting rotation has struggled. Wolf Pack are the only WAC team without a winning record.


4. Hawaii (16-9)

WAC opener: vs. San Jose State, tomorrow-Sunday

RPI: 8

SOS: 4

Key players: Vinnie Catricala, Jr., 3B (.355, 20 RBIs, .546 SLG), Kolten Wong, Fr., OF (.270, five HRs, 22 runs), LHP Sam Spangler (4-0, 1.59 ERA, 22 2/3 IP, 24 K's)

Notes: Rainbows have answered brutal schedule with 13 wins in last 16 games. Wong, Landon Hernandez (.280, three HRs) are heating up at the plate, but UH needs to get more out of SS Greg Garcia (.222, four extra-base hits) and OF Jeff Van Doornum (.229, eight RBIs). Jayson Kramer (1-3, 3.60 ERA, 40 IP) has eaten up innings as the ace of the staff, helping UH's bullpen earn 11 wins. Senior Jared Alexander (0-1, 4.58 ERA) will be a tremendous boost if he can regain form from last season.


5. New Mexico State (21-3)

WAC opener: vs. Sacramento State, April 3-5

RPI: 116

SOS: 295

Key players: Bryan Marquez, Sr., 2B (.371, 13 HRs, 44 RBIs), Richard Stout, Sr., OF (.387, 47 runs, 16 SBs), Daniel Simon, Jr., RHP (5-0, 3.18 ERA, 31 K's)

Notes: Tyler Sturdevant (3-2, 5.45 ERA) hasn't had the best start, but has been picked up by Simon and Sebastien Vendette, who are a combined 9-0. NMSU has used hitter-friendly home park to its advantage, blasting 63 home runs and hitting .369 in 24 games. Aggies aren't afraid to run (41 stolen bases in 45 attempts). Currently ranked 24th in Collegiate Baseball poll. Six regulars are hitting over .370.


6. Louisiana Tech (12-9)

WAC opener: at Nevada, tomorrow-Sunday

RPI: 223

SOS: 284

Key players: Kevin Winn, Sr., 2B (.425, 10 2Bs, 28 RBIs), Devon Dageford, Jr., OF (.338, seven HRs, 29 RBIs), Dylan Moseley, Sr., RHP (3-2, 4.08 ERA, one SO)

Notes: Bulldogs start WAC play on a four-game losing streak after opening the season 12-5. Dageford, a JC transfer, has given LaTech a power bat in the middle of the lineup. Team is hitting .308 on the year and has six regulars over the .300 mark for the season. Moseley and John Anderson (3-2, 4.81 ERA) have done a quality job starting, but the Bulldogs need to get more out of Jeb Stefan (2-2, 7.14 ERA, 17 walks in 29 innings). A .959 fielding percentage isn't helping; the Bulldogs have given up 26 unearned runs.


7. Sacramento State (16-9)

WAC opener: at New Mexico State, tomorrow-Sunday

RPI: 137

SOS: 198

Key players: Tim Wheeler, Jr., OF (.407, eight HRs, 36 RBIs), Hunter Martinez, Sr., 2B (.407, 33 runs, 13 SBs), Brandon Sandoval, Soph., RHP (3-2, 2.33 ERA, 11 walks in 38 2/3 innings)

Notes: Martinez and Wheeler are the two big bats in the lineup, both hitting over .400 and combining to steal 24 bases in 28 attempts. Hornets are one of the better defensive teams (.971 fielding percentage) in the WAC, helping a young rotation. The Hornets have had two starts by seniors all season, and freshman Jesse Darrah is 4-2 in seven starts and strikes out nearly a batter per inning. Sac State is hitting .306 as a team, but most of it comes from the two big bats. Only four regulars hit above .300.