Hawaii was full of energy and spirit and fight and all those other good things you like in a team the first two games of its opening series with Oregon.
But sometime between Breland Almadova’s game-winning single at 10:14 Saturday night and Alex Capaul’s first pitch of yesterday’s 1 p.m. matinee, the Rainbows lost something.
After a listless 4-0 loss they’d be good to find it in time for tonight’s series finale.
Of course you could say instead that the Ducks’ starting pitcher, Madison Boer, took it away — allowing just one hit and two walks in eight innings.
Everyone agrees Boer was very good.
"When the pitcher went four innings without (allowing) a hit, after that he could put the ball anywhere," Rainbows right fielder Collin Bennett said. "He had command of both his fastball and slider and he kind of got in a groove."
But in the first two games it didn’t matter how good Oregon was. And even though the Rainbows made mistakes and didn’t play particularly well overall, they came up with just enough magic, got just enough breaks and thrived in the clutch just enough for two one-run wins against the ninth-ranked team in the nation.
UH COACH Mike Trapasso faced a very common dilemma while filling out his lineup card yesterday. Go with the hot bats or play the lefty-righty percentages? Lefties Michael Blake and Sean Montplaisir got the call over David Peterson and Zack Swasey.
Afterward, Trapasso joked at his own expense about it. "I said to our new hitting coach, Rusty (McNamara), ‘Let’s see how good you are. I’m taking seven hits out of the lineup.’
"They’ll be back in (today)," Trapasso said of Peterson and Swasey, who are hitting a combined .571 in 14 at-bats.
Peterson, the starting catcher the first two games, was 4-for-4 on Saturday. His replacement yesterday, Pi’ikea Kitamura, performed well behind the plate in his first game there since he was a little kid.
But he suffered one of baseball’s bigger ignominies (coincidentally one which afflicts catchers more than others) when he was thrown out before reaching first base on an apparent single to right. In fairness, this wasn’t due to a lack of hustle; Kitamura didn’t get his normal jump out of the batter’s box because it was a check swing, and right fielder Aaron Jones was positioned perfectly.
It was a big play. Since this was the second batter of the game for UH and Kolten Wong and the rest of the meat of the order were coming up, possibilities would’ve been good for an early lead (something Hawaii did not achieve in either win).
Instead, the Ducks seized the initiative, scratching out single runs in the second through fourth innings. This was despite two great catches by Bennett — and a perfect throw to third that went for naught when Ryan Hambright was judged by umpire Billy Haze to have beaten Conner George’s tag. Hambright then scored for the first and only necessary run.
A close call. But just the fact that Hambright would go for third with none out in that spot signified fresher legs and more spiritual energy from the visitors.
Conversely, Wong tried to steal third after rapping UH’s only hit in the seventh and swiping second, but was gunned down for the third out. Maybe not the best decision in the history of baseball, but someone had to try to get something going. By that stage it was determined things weren’t going to happen by themselves for the Rainbows.
"You could say we’re drained from the past two days, but we always come out and compete," Bennett said. "We don’t just clock in and think we’re going to win."
There are such things as teams that thrive on adversity and late-inning heroics and Hawaii looked like one in the first two games. But baseball’s season is way too long to rely on magic all the time. If the 2011 Rainbows didn’t know that before yesterday, they do now.