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Thursday, April 17, 2014         

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Rainbows overcame big time losses to win WAC

By Billy Hull

POSTED:


The 2011 Hawaii baseball season didn't end with a trip to the NCAA tournament.

But it did finish off the most successful 2-year run in nearly two decades.

The Rainbows followed 2010's Western Athletic Conference tournament championship with a regular-season title in 2011. Neither had been accomplished by a UH team since 1992.

"I think that you take the two WAC titles and then look into the future at going into the Big West and I'm pretty excited what the state of the program is right now and where we're going," coach Mike Trapasso said.

Trapasso's 10th season with the program got off to a rough start. Last year's draft took a big chunk out of the expected starting lineup for this season.

Junior shortstop Greg Garcia and catcher David Freitas, who both caught fire down the stretch in 2010, were drafted in the first 15 rounds and eventually signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals, respectively.

Incoming catching recruit Keanu Carmichael was drafted in the sixth round by the Seattle Mariners despite not playing his senior season of high school. He also signed.

Three pitchers UH had signed decided to turn pro.

The Rainbows were able to bring in junior college recruit Zack Swasey, who finished behind only Kolten Wong with a .320 average and 44 RBIs, but the damage had been done.

"I thought that with the guys we lost and with what the draft did to us, basically taking away our juniors and blowing up our recruiting class, I was kind of going into (the season) thinking it may be a year where we have some struggles," Trapasso said. "I thought it very well could be a rebuilding-type year, but that's what makes me more proud of this group."

2011 STATISTICAL LEADERS

>> Batting average: Kolten Wong, .378
>> Runs: Breland Almadova, 54
>> Hits: Kolten Wong, 79
>> Doubles: Jeff Van Doornum, 17
>> Triples: Sean Montplaisir, 5
>> Home runs: Kolten Wong, 7
>> RBIs: Kolten Wong, 53
>> Total bases: Kolten Wong, 107
>> Slugging percentage: Kolten Wong, .560
>> On-base percentage: Kolten Wong, .492
>> Walks: Kolten Wong, 42
>> Stolen bases: Kolten Wong, 23
>> Earned run average: Lenny Linsky, 1.30
>> Wins: Blair Walters, 7
>> Appearances: Blair Walters, Lenny Linsky, 27
>> Saves: Lenny Linsky, 14*
>> Innings pitched: Matt Sisto, 83 1/3
>> Strikeouts: Jarrett Arakawa, 65
>> Batting average against: Michael Blake, .148

*UH single-season record

UH hung tough early in the season, splitting with Oregon at home and Loyola Marymount on the road. The Rainbows were a hit away from taking two of three against top-5 Texas and were swept by regional host Cal State Fullerton despite losing four games by a combined eight runs.

Hawaii didn't hit its stride until league play, when it opened 7-1 with a four-game sweep of Sacramento State and a series win against Louisiana Tech.

Ignoring the pink-jersey series against Valparaiso that shall never be mentioned again, UH went 5-3 on a key road trip at Fresno State and Nevada, and finished the home season taking three of four against San Jose State. That included a dramatic three-run comeback in the ninth inning of the final home game for five seniors.

UH eventually earned the No. 1 seed in the WAC tournament although it tied Fresno State for the conference title. After edging the Spartans in a pitching duel between Matt Sisto and Roberto Padilla, the 'Bows couldn't surpass Fresno State in the tournament, losing twice to the Bulldogs to see their season come to an end.

It marks the end of the road for a few prominent Rainbows, including four-year seniors Jeff Van Doornum and Sean Montplaisir.

The big losses are juniors Lenny Linsky and Kolten Wong. Both were named to the Louisville Slugger NCAA All-America third team on Wednesday and can expect their names to be called very early in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

Wong is projected to be the program's fourth first-round pick and Linsky could follow right behind as a sandwich pick between rounds 1 and 2.

For a school and a coach that has had trouble holding onto recruits who are drafted early, this marks the perfect selling point to go to college.

"You can use it in a couple of different ways," Trapasso said. "Obviously our program is on the right track when it's bringing in some great players and then developing these players.

"Lenny wasn't drafted out of high school and Kolten is an example for our local kids that get drafted in the 15th, 20th, 30th rounds that you're crazy to sign. You come to school and you develop, you get better, you mature physically and emotionally, you play in an environment that you can't get in minor league baseball, and it pays off at the end."

It remains to be seen how this year's draft affects juniors Matt Sisto, Connor Little, Collin Bennett and Michael Blake. UH signees Scott Squier (6-foot-6, LHP, Phoenix, Ariz.), Corey Macdonald (6-7, RHP, Sacramento) and Brett Harrison (SS, Henderson, Nev.) are also expected to flirt with going pro.

As of now, UH has 13 newcomers either signed or committed for next season. Catchers David Peterson and Zach McDonell, outfielder Chase Koissian, infielder Jake MacWilliam and pitchers Trent Allianic and Robert Parucha will not return next year.

Left-hander Jim MacWilliam and right-hander Patrick O'Rourke both redshirted and will be back.

This year's draft begins with Round 1 on Monday and rounds 2 through 30 on Tuesday before finishing up Wednesday.






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