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Ferd's Words

30 years later, Rainbows still seeking Series repeat

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Perhaps never has the College World Series seemed so distant for the University of Hawaii baseball team as it does now from the television screen.

Thirty years after then-head coach Les Murakami stood on the dugout steps at Rosenblatt Stadium and talked of a prompt return to the scene of the Rainbows’ 1980 national championship runner-up showing, ESPN is serving up daily reminders of how long the separation has become.

With each game commentators point out that the Omaha landmark will be torn down after this series, ending a 61-year run as the home of the CWS.

"Watching that, I can’t believe we haven’t gotten back there yet," said Howard Dashefsky, a first baseman on the ’80 team. "It has been a while."

The ‘Bows have come close, frustratingly so, a couple of times. But not for a while, and the current format promises few favors.

Of course, the ‘Bows could help their chances by just getting into the 64-team NCAA tournament with regularity, something that stopped being the case two decades ago. In the past 17 years, UH has been to just two tournaments.

This after being something of a tournament perennial with eight appearances between 1982 and ’93.

But in the two most recent trips, 2006 and this year, the ‘Bows have come to understand how much the landscape has changed in the interim and how the degree of difficulty has risen significantly.

Also how remarkable a run the Rainbow Wahine softball team managed this year.

When the UH baseball team got to Omaha, the Cinderella team in the ’80 field, it needed but five total postseason victories – two in the Western Athletic Conference tournament at home – and one magical three-win weekend in Austin, Texas, to do it.

But an expanded WAC tournament plus the advent of the NCAA super regional have added additional hurdles, meaning eight victories. And, most likely for UH, an additional road trip or two.

Of UH’s 14 NCAA appearances, just one, the debut in 1977, took place at home because of the NCAA’s historical resistance to Hawaii travel costs.

The current CWS field underlines just how important the home field can be: All eight teams either hosted a regional or super regional, or both. Five of the eight had the crucial super regionals at home.

Without a hefty ticket charge and prospects of a sellout, don’t look for either of the above coming to Les Murakami Stadium anytime soon.

"It is hard to believe that much time has passed without us getting back to Omaha," said Sam Kakazu, a pitcher on the ’80 team. A point that was reinforced when a friend brought him back a shirt commemorating this as the last CWS at Rosenblatt Stadium.

"It was a real first-class experience I’ll always remember," Kakazu said.

In his book "100 Sporting Events You Must See Live," Robert Tuchman lists the College World Series at No. 96.

Hopefully, one of these days the ‘Bows, like the Rainbow Wahine, will see it from somewhere besides their TV screen.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.

 

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