"High strung, kind of like a maniac, but cool, like an assassin," is the way Lenny Linsky describes himself on the mound.
» Who: No. 9 Oregon (0-0) at Hawaii (0-0)
With those adjectives, there’s only one position that fits the junior right-hander perfectly.
Hawaii’s one-man door slammer was as crucial as any Rainbow to last season’s postseason run that ended in the Tempe, Ariz., regional final of the NCAA tournament.
He finished 4-0 with a 1.64 ERA, falling one short of the single-season school record with 12 saves. All told, it was one of the most dominant performances by a closer in UH history.
This year, he again will anchor the bullpen as the guy coach Mike Trapasso counts on the most with the game on the line.
"We could start him and he could do OK, but he’s got the perfect personality to be a closer," Trapasso said. "He has the toughness and the mentality of a closer, where he goes out there and is a max-effort guy that gives you everything he’s got for one or two innings."
There are exceptions to the rule — like the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera — but many of the successful big-league closers have that wild demeanor that at times allows them to strike fear in opposing hitters.
Linsky has the personality, but more important, he has the stuff. He can run a blistering fastball into the mid-90s. Combine that with a nasty sinker and cutter that move both ways and you have an intimidating force on the mound.
UH PITCHING STAFF
*Probable starters vs. Oregon
"We made some changes in my mechanics and I started throwing the ball 93, 94 miles (per) hour (as a sophomore) and Trap told me I’d be the closer," Linsky said. "I said, ‘Perfect.’ I’m the kind of guy that goes out there p – – – – – off every time, but that’s just the mentality I have and the competitiveness in me.
"That’s kind of the job description as a closer."
He’s the primary reason the Rainbows were 23-1 last year when leading after seven innings. He has the stuff that makes him a potential high draft pick, but repeating last year’s performance will be tough.
"The key for him now this year is because of that mentality that he has, he has to understand that he’s similar to Kolten (Wong’s) situation in that he can’t try to do too much," Trapasso said. "Early in the spring, he’s struggling because he’s trying to do too much.
"He’s trying to throw 100 (mph) when he needs to understand that he doesn’t have to do anything more than what he did last year when he went out there and stayed within himself."
Trapasso discovered Linsky, who graduated from Peninsula High School in Palos Verdes, Calif., at a showcase in Seattle at Safeco Field, where he also signed former shortstop Greg Garcia, a seventh-round draft pick in 2010.
Linsky knew he wanted to move away from home, but loves the beach, making Hawaii an obvious choice.
"That was the initial reason I made Hawaii my dream school, but then I met Coach (Trapasso) and he seemed so honest and sincere in wanting to develop me and get me an education that I ended up coming here because of him."
Seven of his 12 saves encompassed more than an inning of work, but with senior Blair Walters and newcomers Michael Blake and Jarrett Arakawa expected to pitch key roles out of the bullpen, Linsky feels his job could be easier this season.
"Michael Blake can throw heat. Brent Harrison has dirty movement on his pitches. We’ve got so many guys that can throw late in games that I might just be pitching the ninth inning," Linsky said. "And that makes my job a lot easier."
The Rainbows, ranked No. 38 by Collegiate Baseball, open the season Friday against No. 9 Oregon. It could be a good sign for Linsky, who recorded three saves in wins over the Ducks a year ago.