University of Hawaii baseball coach Mike Trapasso greeted me with a smile after yesterday’s game. Not a happy smile.
"You’ll have fun with this one," he said. I tried to explain I take no joy in documenting his team losing, especially an implosion like the one yesterday. "Nah, you love it … all the negative stuff you’ve been writing about us this year."
I can honestly say I’d rather write about the home team winning. Just haven’t had the opportunity yet this season. Generally, columnists write negative stuff after losses and positive stuff after wins. The Rainbows are 6-9 after giving one away to Portland yesterday. Didn’t plan it this way, but all three games I’ve covered this year, UH has lost. It’s just worked out that way. My bad, I guess.
With our beat writer Billy Hull as my witness, as late as the seventh inning I was looking forward to documenting the Rainbows’ best overall game of the season.
Freshman lefty Jarrett Arakawa was masterful in his first home start. Leadoff batter Breland Almadova scored four runs and made a great catch. Kolten Wong drilled four hits.
That would have been the story of the game, three local players leading the way to a solid win on a beautiful afternoon, and UH would’ve been playing for its first series win of the season today instead of scrambling for a split. Playing solid all-around baseball, the Rainbows were sailing.
But then came the horrific eighth inning. As Don Robbs told his radio audience, too bad this one wasn’t scheduled for seven.
Apparently some of the Rainbows thought it was.
How else do you explain three errors, a passed ball, two wild pitches, two walks and a hit batsman in the last two innings? If you doubt UH gave this one away, consider that the first ball into the outfield in the Portland ninth came after the Pilots scored the eventual winning run. It was on a throw that went into center field.
"We had six good innings. We just gotta finish," Wong said. "We wander off and lose focus at the end. We’re not stepping on their throats like we should."
THE RAINBOWS allowed eight runs before they could record the last six outs, and that’s what cost them the game. Simple as that.
It’s hard to find a bright spot there, other than they rallied to tie it in the bottom of the eighth before throwing it away for good in the ninth. If you need another positive, how about this: It wasn’t on TV. Innocent children and other sensitive viewers didn’t have to see the brutal conclusion.
Most of the nearly 2,000 at the park watched the end with jaws dropping. After 2-plus hours of seeing the home team play solid fundamental baseball, the many youth players in the crowd got a clinic on how not to play the game.
As I headed down to the field, a disappointed fan said loudly to no one in particular, "This game was shameful. They played like they don’t want to win. … Shameful."
Those are a paying customer’s words, not mine. I won’t go as far as "shameful" in describing the efforts of amateur athletes … especially since they had a lot to be proud of early on.
It ended up a fine day for those in Pilots purple and white, including a sizable contingent of family and friends of Portland starter J.R. Bunda. Like Arakawa, he’s an ‘Iolani grad, and the Rainbows got to him, but then let him off the hook for the loss.
Portland’s not bad, but it isn’t Oregon or Texas.
The Rainbows still have time to prove they’re the team that led 6-1 after six innings yesterday. It’s still early in the season. But we won’t be able to say that much longer.