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Rainbows want first WAC title since 1992

Their magic number to clinch the crown outright is three; they'll be the tournament's top seed even if they tie with Fresno State

By Billy Hull

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 10:29 p.m. HST, Aug 05, 2011



The Hawaii baseball team had a lot to celebrate on Sunday.

The thrill of a ninth-inning comeback trailing by three runs with two outs against San Jose State.

The accomplishment of locking up a bye on the first day of the Western Athletic Conference tournament beginning next week.

The acknowledgement of the five seniors and what they've brought to the program during their careers.

Yes, Sunday was quite the day for the Rainbows baseball team, but that was Sunday.

RAINBOWS BASEBALL

» Who: Hawaii (30-21,
15-5 Western Athletic Conference) at New Mexico State (32-20, 7-13)
» When: Today (doubleheader), 11:05 a.m.; tomorrow, 2:05 p.m.; Saturday, 9:05 a.m.
» TV: None
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM

PROBABLE STARTERS

» UH: RHP Matt Sisto
(4-4, 3.25 ERA); LHP Jarrett Arakawa (5-3, 3.70); RHP Zach Gallagher (5-2, 3.36); TBA
» NMSU: LHP Ryan Beck (9-6, 6.10); RHP Dan Reid (7-3, 5.72); TBA; TBA

And like every other week this season, they move on.

The Rainbows (31-20, 15-5 Western Athletic Conference) still have much to accomplish during their final series of the regular season, a four-game set at New Mexico State that starts with today's doubleheader.

Hawaii's magic number to clinch the title outright is three. Any combination of Hawaii wins and Fresno State losses (the Bulldogs close their season today against Nevada) will do it.

The Rainbows haven't won a regular-season WAC championship since 1992, when they fell one win short of the College World Series.

"When you're in a position where you can win the regular-season championship, you want to do that," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "We're going to do everything we can to do that."

The biggest challenge that faces the Rainbows is dealing with the elements (3,900 feet above sea level) at Presley Askew Field in Las Cruces, N.M.

Offenses tend to get healthy playing at New Mexico State, where home runs are the easiest to come by.

Just two weeks ago, Sacramento State, which is last in the WAC with a .248 batting average, scored 50 runs in four games. In its other 50 games, the Hornets scored 165 runs, averaging more than nine runs a game less than at NMSU.

"It's going to be a challenge for our pitching staff," junior Kolten Wong said on Sunday. "It's something that our bats are going to have to keep scoring runs and outscore them."

Hawaii is 1-6 in its last two series after playing at New Mexico State the week before. With the WAC tournament looming next week, Hawaii will have to do what it's done all year, regardless of the outcome.

"It's a grind (playing at NMSU) that you really can't describe when you're not used to it," Trapasso said. "This is by far the hardest place to play in the conference because of the elements, but this team has gone against the grain all season and hopefully they do it again."

Trapasso said he expects junior right-hander Connor Little, who hasn't pitched in 17 days, to see action at least once in the series.

"He's not 100 percent, but he's close and the next step is to get him to pitch in live competition for a couple of innings," Trapasso said.

Should the Rainbows and Bulldogs finish tied for first place, the tiebreaker that determines the conference tournament's top seed would be how they fared against the next-best team.

San Jose State, which is currently third, split against FSU and lost three of four at Hawaii after UH's comeback win on Sunday.

In hindsight, that day just seems to get better and better.






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