POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 28, 2011
It's one of those confounding things about baseball.
In the short term, it would have been better if Conner George did anything other than what he did with the bases loaded and one out. Even if he'd struck out. But the fact that the rangy freshman hit the 0-2 pitch on the screws and sizzled a line drive to Texas pitcher Keifer Nuncio for a game-ending double play bodes well for the future of the University of Hawaii program.
Maybe you didn't feel that way yesterday after the Rainbows lost 4-3 to Texas, maybe you still don't and you never will. Perhaps you don't prescribe to the good loss theory — but this isn't college basketball, it's college baseball. There are 56 games on the schedule, and we're just seven in. Losing that way stings, but if you follow this team you can't wait to see George come up again in a similar situation.
Yes, it would have been nice if he gets one or two of those runners home and UH delivers yet another thrilling late-inning win, this one to take the series from the consensus top-10 Longhorns.
But if you gotta go down, this is the way to go. This is one unsuccessful at-bat you want your guy to remember, to build off of. George, an outstanding prospect who had scuffled in his first few college plate appearances, smoked a tough pitch in a clutch situation.
"He hit it hard, he just didn't get the break," said a young man who knows about confidence, UH second baseman Kolten Wong. "That's the game of baseball."
WONG WENT 5-for-16 in the series, but committed errors in all three games, and his baserunning misadventures continued as he tried to stretch a single into a double to start yesterday's game.
A late-game lineup scramble had Wong at third base for the ninth, and he atoned with a tremendous play on a bunt — at a position he can't remember the last time he played in a game.
Wong's one of those guys like Rickey Henderson and Shane Victorino, who play baseball with an aggressive football mentality. Usually it produces great results, but sometimes it doesn't; Wong knows that.
"Just rushing things too much, trying to make too much happen," he said. "Trying to do too much."
Part of it has to do with melding with new players all around him. Greg Garcia at shortstop and Kevin Macdonald at first were very good defensively, but they are done, and the UH lineup — at the plate and in the field — is a work in progress.
Earlier in the series, Wong unsuccessfully went after a ball in right field that newcomer Zack Swasey should have handled, especially with a runner on third. Later, in a similar situation, he gave way. So, progress is already being made.
Swasey has impressed against some of the best pitching in college baseball. He's hit in all six games he's played in and produced runs in clutch situations. Swasey was moved up to second in the lineup yesterday, behind Wong, and responded with two walks and a single.
UH COACH MIKE Trapasso doesn't expect another series with nine errors. The Rainbows made four yesterday and have 19 in seven games.
"A couple guys are just trying to do too much," he said. "Everybody wants to go bananas on the fielding. We're going to get it fixed. This team will be fine."
The Rainbows pitching was tremendous, holding the Longhorns to 2.67 runs per nine innings. Half of the Texas runs were scored as earned.
"We're 3-4, and we competed in every game," Trapasso said. "We've got some things to work on, and we will. But we went toe-to-toe with two teams that have a good chance to be going to Omaha.
"We got heart," he said. "That's baseball."
And so is this: If a line shot with the game on the line doesn't turn into a double play, Hawaii probably wins the series.
It's why baseball is a heart-breaking game.
It's also why we keep coming back.
Reach Dave Reardon at email@example.com and read his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com.