POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, May 5, 2011
Baseball is the only men's sport at the University of Hawaii not to adopt any version of "Warriors" in its team name.
Yet there might not be a better word to describe this year's team.
Look all across the diamond and what you see are kids who have persevered at certain positions.
Junior Garrett Champion is a walk-on who at the start of the year wasn't likely to play a single game for the Rainbows. Now, you can pencil him in every game behind the plate, filling one of the most critical roles on the team.
RAINBOWS BASEBALL» Who: Hawaii (24-19, 9-3 Western Athletic Conference) at Nevada (16-23, 5-6)
» When: Today and tomorrow, 3:05 p.m.; Saturday (doubleheader), 10:05 a.m.
» TV: None
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM Probable starters
» UH: Matt Sisto (3-4, 2.92); Jarrett Arakawa (5-2, 3.63); Zach Gallagher (4-2, 2.38); TBA
» UN: RHP Tom Jameson (3-5, 5.19); RHP Jeremy Cole
(3-4, 4.34); RHP Troy Marks (1-3, 4.47); LHP Brock Stassi
Jesse Moore was expected to add a quality arm to a pitching staff void of the big-name pitchers of years past. However, his play at shortstop has been so instrumental in UH's success that even two separate shoulder injuries haven't stopped him from starting 14 games up the middle.
UH is 11-3 in those games.
At the midway point of the Western Athletic Conference season, Hawaii (24-19 overall) is 9-3 and in first place. Somehow, with a patchwork defense and an offense featuring only Kolten Wong hitting over .308, the Rainbows have scratched and clawed their way to the top of the league standings.
"It's really been smoke, mirrors and Kolten Wong," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "This team's got a collective amnesia when they don't play well, they'll come out the next day and are able to forget about it.
"They really have been a group that's been able to play above their talent at certain areas and take each game as it comes."
Hawaii begins the final three weeks of the regular season with a four-game set at Nevada starting today. The Rainbows remained a half-game ahead of No. 18 Fresno State after a split last weekend, but the key number is three — as in three games ahead of the Wolf Pack (16-23, 5-6) in the loss column.
The top two teams receive a first-day bye in the WAC tournament, which could be especially key for a Hawaii team that's beginning to have pitching issues.
"We're starting to have some pitching breakdowns and that's a big concern," Trapasso said. "Connor Little has an inflamed ulnar nerve that's not getting any better, so we're going to skip a couple of starts with him and try to get him back to where he can throw well for us."
Little's absence puts an even greater burden on the shoulder of today's starter, Matt Sisto, who is looking to bounce back from two poor starts.
Sisto lasted 1 2/3 innings against Valparaiso two weeks ago before leaving with stiffness in his throwing elbow. He said it wasn't an issue against Fresno State in which he lasted three innings, but struggled to find his command.
"He says he's fine, but he just couldn't throw his fastball for strikes and when he has no command, it's an issue because he's a command guy," Trapasso said. "We've got to get a good start out of him because if we have to go to the bullpen early in Game 1, right now we don't have a fourth starter and our lack of pitching depth will hurt us."
Lefty Jarrett Arakawa (5-2, 3.63 ERA) and senior Zach Gallagher (4-2, 2.38), who both pitched well at Fresno, will start the second and third games of the series. Neither pitcher was in the rotation to start the season.
Hawaii returns home next week for the final four games at Les Murakami Stadium this season against San Jose State.