UH's next test: revived Oregon


POSTED: Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Hawaii baseball team turns its attention from the most accomplished team in Oregon to a program trying to revive itself after a 28-year hiatus.

The Oregon Ducks of the Pac-10 are in Hawaii for the first time since the close of the 1978 season for a four-game series beginning tonight at 6:35 at Les Murakami Stadium.

The Ducks (3-1), who began the season with a 7-3 win over No. 4 Cal State Fullerton on Friday, are in their second year of Division I ball following a lengthy absence after the school downgraded baseball to a club sport in 1982.

Oregon hired coach George Horton, who led Fullerton to the 2004 national championship, to lead the revitalization of the Ducks program. After a 14-42 campaign in 2009, Horton has the Ducks off to a solid start in 2010, with wins over the Titans, Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount, earning them a No. 25 ranking in one of the major polls.

“;We have a lot of respect for all four teams we played, but it's still a work in progress,”; Horton said yesterday. “;I have guarded optimism because last year we started out pretty good before hitting a wall both mentally and physically. But with a year under our belt, maybe we won't hit that wall like we did.”;

Hawaii faced Oregon once last year, beating the Ducks 3-1 in the Rose City Invitational in Portland, Ore.

“;It's no surprise,”; Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said of Oregon's early success. “;Obviously, with the resources they have and when they hired Horton, a lot of people said they'd be a top-25 team in their third year, but I always said I wouldn't count them out in their second year and they're already ranked in one of the polls.

“;Horton is arguably the best coach in all of college baseball and they have a great staff and it's another good test for us to start the season.”;





        Who: Oregon (3-1) at Hawaii (1-3)

        When: Today and tomorrow, 6:35 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1:05 p.m.

        Where: Les Murakami Stadium

        TV: KFVE Ch. 5 (Sunday only)

        Radio: KKEA 1420-AM

Junior Drew Gagnier, who was picked in the 14th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft last summer but opted to return to school, is one of the top arms out of a bullpen that allowed just three earned runs in 15 2/3 innings to start the season.

Offense was the primary problem for the Ducks last season, hitting a collective .227 overall and a minuscule .201 in Pac-10 play.

Shortstop KC Serna is coming off a great opening weekend, hitting .421 while batting leadoff, with four extra-base hits and five RBIs.

The Rainbows (1-3) were plagued by a host of fielding errors that kept them from at least a split against Oregon's Civil War rival Oregon State.

Hawaii's starting rotation will remain the same with Nate Klein (0-0, 3.38 ERA) starting tonight, followed by Matt Sisto (0-1, 9.53), Josh Slaats (0-0, 0.00) and Sam Spangler (0-1, 1.93) in Sunday's series finale.

Other than a stretch of six consecutive hits that resulted in four runs off of Sisto on Saturday, Hawaii's rotation performed well. Klein, Slaats and Spangler combined to allow just three earned runs in 16 innings.

“;Basically all of them had quality starts for this early in the season and even Sisto, what impressed me about him was after giving up six consecutive hits, he went back out there and put up two zeros, which is a sign of a pretty mature kid,”; Trapasso said.

Offensively, first baseman Kevin Macdonald and shortstop Greg Garcia combined to go 2-for-26 with 13 strikeouts in the series, but both are three-year starters who aren't likely to continue that trend.

Freshman Breland Almadova picked up two hits on Monday to hopefully jump-start his season and sophomore Collin Bennett provided a punch in the fifth spot of the order, hitting .333 with a home run and a walk-off RBI single in his first four games for the 'Bows.

“;We're comfortable with the idea that (Macdonald and Garcia) are going to do what they've always done,”; Trapasso said. “;When you don't get any production in the two- and four-hole it can be tough, but I've got all the confidence in the world in both of those kids.”;

The Ducks are scheduled to start lefty Tyler Anderson (1-0, 4.76) tonight and Justin LaTempa (0-0, 0.00) tomorrow night. Christian Jones (0-1, 8.10) and Zack Thornton (0-0, 4.76), who pitched one inning of shutout ball in the Ducks' lone meeting against Hawaii last year, will round out the weekend starters.