High hopes for Rainbows


POSTED: Thursday, February 18, 2010

When Kevin Macdonald signed on with the Hawaii baseball program, he was joining a playoff-tested team.

But four years since Hawaii's last appearance in the NCAA regionals, Macdonald has yet to get a taste of what the NCAA tournament is like.

“;I've told the guys I've been here four years and I expected to go to the playoffs every year and this is the last chance,”; the senior first baseman said. “;I think we have a good chance and we'll probably do it.”;

Macdonald's optimism is shared by many Rainbows as Hawaii opens the 2010 season tomorrow night at home against No. 10 Oregon State.

UH has shown signs its ready to get back to the big stage — earning a top-20 ranking midway through the season a year ago — but consistency will be a big part toward UH's success this season.





        Who: No. 10 Oregon State at Hawaii

When: Tomorrow, 6:35 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1:05 p.m.; Monday, 5:05 p.m.


Where: Les Murakami Stadium


TV: KFVE Ch. 5 (Sunday and Monday only)


Radio: KKEA 1420-AM


Hawaii seems poised to make a run, led by an experienced pitching staff that returns starters Nate Klein and Matt Sisto and also features converted relievers Josh Slaats and Sam Spangler.

Macdonald and reigning Western Athletic Conference freshman of the year Kolten Wong will provide one of the better middle-of-the-order combinations in the league. Combine that with a nice mix of veterans in preseason All-WAC selections Greg Garcia and Sean Montplaisir and new blood, including sophomore outfielder Collin Bennett and catcher David Freitas, and you have a team with high expectations.

“;I've been impressed with everything since I got here,”; said Bennett, who is expected to open the season starting in right field. “;I think we're ready to go out and play someone other than ourselves and see what we can do.”;

UH again opens with a tough nonconference slate, including the 10th-ranked Beavers on opening night. It's a quality early-season test the Rainbows are used to having, but like last year proved, is just one of 54 games the Rainbows have to position themselves for a run in the WAC tournament.

“;It's a cliche, but it is a marathon, not a sprint,”; Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. “;Oregon State will give us a good opportunity to see what we need to work on and try to get better at.”;

The following is an in-depth look at the 2010 Rainbows baseball team:



Projected starter: David Freitas, 6-3, R/R, Jr.

Backups: Kevin Fujii, 5-9, R/R, Sr.; Nick Croce 6-2, R/R, Fr.

Outlook: The power-hitting Freitas fills a large hole left by four-year starter Landon Hernandez. Freitas, a transfer from Cosumnes River College, led his team in batting (.333), home runs (nine), RBIs (43) and runs scored (36) in 2009. Fujii is the primary backup.

Keep an eye on: Freitas. Not only will he be counted on to help at the plate, but he'll have to manage a pitching staff that has its share of questions entering the season. A lot to handle for a newcomer, but his experience in junior college should help the transition.



Projected starters: Kevin Macdonald, 6-0, R/R, Sr. (1B); Kolten Wong, 5-9, L/R, So. (2B); Greg Garcia, 6-0, L/R, Jr. (SS); Pi'ikea Kitamura, 6-0, R/R, Fr., or Josh Chevalier, 6-0, R/R, Sr. (3B)

Backups: Russell Doi, 5-10, L/R, Fr., Jesse Moore 5-10, R/R, Soph., Easton Torrigoe, 5-11, S/R, Soph.

Outlook: Macdonald and Wong, who combined for 25 home runs last year, will provide the punch in the middle of the lineup and anchor the right side of the defensive infield. Garcia is one of the better defensive shortstops in the country and is talented enough with the bat to hit leadoff. Replacing a hole at third base is the biggest question mark. Chevalier has more experience and a slightly better bat, but Kitamura has impressed coaches with his tremendous fielding ability and work ethic.

Keep an eye on: Wong. Coming off one of the most impressive freshman seasons ever put together by a Rainbow, he'll try to top it while playing a new position. With Vinnie Catricala playing in the minors this year, Wong will be the focal point of the lineup every team will be aware of. He'll have to show patience at the plate.



Projected starters: Sean Montplaisir, 5-11, L/L, Jr. or Kalani Brackenridge, 5-10, R/R, Fr. (LF); Breland Almadova, 6-1, R/L, Fr., or Matt Roquemore, 5-10, L/L, Sr. (CF); Collin Bennett, 6-1, R/R, So. (RF)

Backups: Chase Koissian, 5-10, R/R, Fr., Jeff Van Doornum 6-3, R/R, Jr., Christian Johnson, 5-10, L/L, Sr.

Outlook: The emergence of Bennett and freshmen Brackenridge and Almadova have created a crowded outfield, giving coach Trapasso some nice flexibility. Montplaisir is a preseason All-WAC selection after hitting .291 last season. Almadova's range in center makes him a viable candidate to start from the outset. If he can swing the bat, he could lock down the leadoff spot in the order. Johnson could also see time in the outfield, while Van Doornum is likely more of a DH candidate.

Keep an eye on: Bennett. Lots to choose from here, but the one-year transfer from Tacoma Community College has the tools to be a special player. Didn't take long to cement himself as a fixture in right field and should be tested with lots of early-season RBI chances hitting behind the meat of UH's lineup.



Projected starter: Jeff Van Doornum, 6-3, R/R, Jr.

Backups: Christian Johnson, 5-10, L/L, Sr.

Outlook: Both can play the outfield if needed, but with Van Doornum's shoulder problems as a sophomore, the DH role might be the best fit. He was one of UH's best hitters as a freshman with outstanding opposite-field power and great gap-hitting ability. Johnson struggled at times in his first season with the 'Bows last year, but does have nice pop in his bat when he connects.

Keep an eye on: Van Doornum. Slated to potentially hit in the fifth spot if he can rekindle the magic he had at the plate as a freshman two years ago when he routinely hit opposite-field extra-base hits. That scenario would force teams to pitch to meat of the order in front of him.



Projected starters: Nate Klein, 5-11, RHP, Sr., Matt Sisto, 6-4, RHP, So., Josh Slaats, 6-5, RHP, Sr., Sam Spangler, 6-2, LHP, Jr.

Relievers: Connor Little, 6-5, RHP, So., Trent Allianic, 6-0, RHP, Fr., Jesse Moore, 5-10, RHP, So., Harrison Kuroda, 5-9, RHP, Sr., Blair Walters, 6-0, LHP, Jr., Derek Brown, 6-1, LHP, Fr., Alex Capaul, 6-2, RHP, Jr., Zach Gallagher, 5-11, RHP, Jr., Randy Yard, 6-0, RHP, Jr.

Closer: Lenny Linsky, 6-2, R/R, So.

Outlook: Spangler suffered from a tired arm over the winter break and may not start to open the season. This opens the door for Slaats, who pitched out of the bullpen last year, and Little, who started five times as a freshman, to battle for a spot in the rotation. Sisto ate up innings (82 1/3) as a freshman and was extremely reliable. Klein will fill in for Spangler at the top of the rotation and has a bevy of pitches at his disposal to keep hitters off balance. Linsky assumes the closer role, and a mix of newcomers will be counted on to fill out the bullpen. Kuroda is back for a sixth-year after receiving a medical hardship. Yard is expected to miss the season after having shoulder surgery, although there's an outside possibility he could come back very late in the year.

Keep an eye on: Spangler. The left-hander was UH's best pitcher out of the bullpen a year ago. After turning down a pro contract, Spangler's back as a redshirt junior to tap into his full potential and prove he can be a dominant starter at the collegiate level. Baring any complications after shutting himself down for roughly two weeks to rest his arm, Spangler could become the dominant No. 1 pitcher UH is looking for.