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Thursday, November 27, 2014         

FURTHER REVIEW


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'Bows combine resiliency, luck and ... forgetfulness

By Dave Reardon

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There's no logic to explain this one.

And, then again, it's no surprise to those who have been watching it happen -- and those who have been making it happen -- over and over again all season.

The University of Hawaii baseball team kept clawing to its last strike yesterday on senior day, and the Rainbows were given an extra out exactly when they needed one. It resulted in a big win, and not just for sentimental reasons.

A first-round bye in the WAC tournament is HUGE enough to go all caps. Part of that is because this edition of the Rainbows is not very pretty on paper, and a victory total in the mid-30s won't likely be good enough for an at-large bid. It's probably win the tourney or get ready for summer ball.

SAN JOSE STATE is usually not the kind of team that blows a three-run lead in the ninth. But UH is the kind that takes whatever it can get, whenever it can get it.

That's why the Rainbows are 13-5 in one-run games.

"We've had that as our identity the whole year," said left fielder Sean Montplaisir, who got his bat on the ball for the walk-off error that plated the three runs UH needed to win in the ninth. "We knew we could make a run toward the end. Put some hits together and put some pressure on them."

Montplaisir wasn't part of the 10-hit parade. This is a team where you can go 0-for-5 and end up being the hero, mobbed by your teammates at the end.

There was no reason to expect him to even hit the ball in what turned out to be the game-winning at-bat -- that is, other than Montplaisir's considerable mental toughness. He had struck out three times previously in this game, as well as in his only plate appearance against Roberto Padilla, who started for San Jose State on Thursday and was now in to close things up. Toss in lefty-on-lefty, and the matchup is one from the lower regions for UH.

Bases loaded, two outs, one run in. Padilla buzzes two fastballs near Montplaisir's head. Then the count goes to 3-2. Everyone's moving -- and they keep moving as Montplaisir hits a bounding ball to second baseman Jacob Valdez, and Valdez throws wild.

A three-run ground ball. Not too many teams have this in their playbook. "We'll take any kind of luck we can get," UH coach Mike Trapasso said.

This was an old-fashioned Sunday college baseball game, the kind we often saw before the bats were deadened. High-scoring, back-and-forth.

For the most part it wasn't sloppy; a snazzy behind-the-back flip by San Jose State shortstop Nick Borg was followed in the next half inning by a great snag of a liner by his UH counterpart, Jesse Moore.

Later, second baseman Kolten Wong turned a nifty tag-out, throw-out double play that took some sting out of going hitless in very likely his final home game. And in the end it didn't matter at all since Wong took an HBP to start the rally in the ninth.

IF YOU have a good memory, or a copy of UH's game log, you know the Rainbows opened the season with two one-run wins over Oregon. So, this team has always known how to win the close ones.

Selective memory can be wonderful for a baseball team.

"This team has a great sense of ... what's the word I'm looking for? ... Amnesia."

Trapasso really didn't remember the word for "not remembering" momentarily when he told me that Wednesday. He knows it by heart now because he's repeated it many times since. "That's been one thing about this club all season, from the first game. Nobody gets wrapped up in moping or pouting when they're down."

UH can't recall that it's not supposed to win when its All-American goes hitless and its superb closer gets lit.

These Rainbows forget about the right things. And because of that, they gave themselves and the crowd something to remember.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.






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