Star-Bulletin Sports



Rainbows head east
for longest road
trip of year

Hawaii plays LaTech before moving
on to Houston to face Rice

By Al Chase

The Hawaii Rainbows are on their first mainland road trip of the year with two practices under their belts in Ruston, La., where they play three Western Athletic Conference games against Louisiana Tech beginning tomorrow.

This is the longest road trip in first-year head coach Mike Trapasso's career and the farthest east the Rainbows have ever played, topping by a relatively few miles their visit to Omaha, Neb., in 1980.

"I don't make a big deal out of road games. I learned early on that these kids know they are going into someone's house," said Trapasso. "I say I love going on the road because I love showing other people that we have a good baseball team here and we play hard. I've had teams that have bonded on the road because it's just four coaches and 25 players in a hotel and eating at the same restaurant."

The Bulldogs' ballpark, J.C. Love Field, has a reputation of being kind to hitters. The Rainbows' hitters might like this, but it will be a challenge for UH's three starting pitchers, Chris George (3-2, 5.60 ERA), Sean Yamashita (2-3, 3.53) and Ricky Bauer (1-3, 6.70).

Louisiana Tech is 15-20 after a 4-3, 14-inning loss at Northwestern State on Wednesday, and 2-10 in the WAC, with victories against San Jose State and Nevada, the same teams UH defeated.

Hawaii starts the trip with a 13-22 record, 2-7 in conference.

Trapasso is monitoring the effects, if any, of traveling through four time zones.

"It will be a learning experience for me. I want to know how feasible and practical it is to go through (that many) time zones, play three games, take a couple of days off and play three more games," Trapasso said.

"It is important to stay cognizant of sleeping patterns and our biological clock. If that means sleeping in late, then the players can do that. Other coaches have told me the toughest part of mainland trips is when you head east."

The Hawaii lineup will be slightly different, as Derek Honma, who has been playing with a broken hamate bone in his left hand, is finding it more difficult as the injury gets progressively worse. The senior outfielder had hoped a cortisone shot would allow him to finish the season, but an MRI exam Tuesday changed that.

"Derek is not cleared to swing a bat. He had a lot of trouble controlling the bat last weekend," Trapasso said.

"One of the pieces of bone that broke is fraying the ligaments to his fourth and fifth fingers. He will need surgery. He is such a great kid, a senior and I brought him on the trip where he can pinch-run or perhaps play defense.

"Derek wants to play through this, but this is a quality of life issue. I want him to be able to pick up his kids when he's 35. It's a real shame for a senior who has battled all year."

Trapasso has options, but the likely moves will have designated hitter Scooter Martines moving to left field, Gregg Omori leaving first base to become the DH, Kevin Gilbride coming in to play first from right field and Tim Montgomery taking Gilbride's spot in right.

The move to DH for a few games should benefit Omori, who has been fighting a left hamstring injury.

"It's funny, because it may help him on his swing because he can't jump at the ball," said Trapasso.

Omori has steadily raised his average to .278 since starting the year with a 2-for-26 (.077) slump. In WAC games, he is hitting .419 and is tied for the lead in doubles with six.

Trapasso said he can live with third baseman Brent Cook, who had fans holding their breath with his throws to first base last weekend, two of which resulted in errors.

"Brent has a tendency to have his front side fly open. He doesn't throw over the top, so this affects his sidearm angle. I don't get upset with him because it's all physical errors."

Cook's .338 batting average is the only one on the team above .300. He leads the team in runs scored (26), hits (45), walks (25) and stolen bases (14 of 15).

"Each game we're trying to get a little better, to raise the level of expectation," said Trapasso. "We're laying the foundation for future teams from the standpoint of expectations.

"When you're good, the next game is the most important because you want to keep it going. When you're bad, the next game is the most important because you want to learn how to end your struggles."

Notes: The 'Bows flew to Houston, then took a four-hour bus ride to Ruston. The team could have flown to Shreveport, La., but that would have involved a 1 1/2-hour bus ride. This way, they don't have to contend with airport layovers and can head back to Houston for a three-game series against Rice after Monday's finale with the Bulldogs. ... Reserve infielder Jason Carlson did not make the trip. He felt his right elbow pop during an infield drill and had an MRI exam Wednesday. The results weren't back before the team left for the mainland. "From the way Jason described what he felt, we're hoping for the best, but fearing for the worst," said Trapasso.

UH Athletics

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