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More Shock than awe for Rainbows

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The beauty of playing 54 games in three months is there’s not much time to dwell on the past.

The Hawaii baseball team is coming off a tough four-game sweep at the hands of No. 10 Cal State Fullerton just three days ago.

The Rainbows don’t have time to play the “what if” or “what could have been” game with Wichita State in town for a four-game set beginning tonight.

“For the most part you can’t be thinking about the sweep or what went wrong,” sophomore Pi‘ikea Kitamura said. “It’s a long season and the team’s mind-set is to get after it and turn things around.”

If there’s one guy who could have used an extra day between series, it’s junior Garrett Champion, who caught all four games against the Titans.


Four-game series

» Who: Wichita State (17-8) at Hawaii (11-13)
» Where: Les Murakami Stadium)
» When: Today through Friday, 6:35 p.m.; Saturday, 12:05 p.m.)
» TV: KFVE Ch. 5 (today and tomorrow only))
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM

Probable starters
» WSU: Tim Kelley (3-1, 0.95); Josh Smith (3-1, 3.18); Bryan Flynn (2-0, 4.40); Charlie Lowell (4-3, 3.62)
» UH: Jesse Moore (0-2, 3.76); Matt Sisto (1-3, 2.27); Connor Little (2-1, 3.49); Jarrett Arakawa (1-2, 3.94)

Champion, who emerged as a starter two weeks ago against Centenary, caught 34 innings in less than 48 hours.

“It was definitely a brutal weekend, but it’s part of the job,” Champion said. “It was fun to go out there against that level of competition and hold my own.”

Kitamura has started seven times at catcher, but the emergence of Champion behind the plate has allowed the Kamehameha graduate to move back to his natural position at third.

It didn’t last long as the injury suffered by Kolten Wong on Friday forced Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso to move Kitamura to second.

Eventually, when middle infielders Wong and Jesse Moore return to the field, Kitamura can go back to third and the Rainbows can proceed with what looks to be their most effective infield lineup.

“It’s good to have (Champion) back there so we don’t have to worry about who is going to catch, who is going to play here today, and it’s helping Coach and the team find a really solid lineup that we can run with,” Kitamura said. “I don’t mind (playing catcher), but I’m first and foremost an infielder and having Garrett back there helps me out.”

It’s still up in the air how long Moore and Wong will be unable to play in the infield. Moore, who will be tonight’s starting pitcher, likely will be out longer since he’s unable to swing a bat.

Trapasso said he won’t know until today whether Wong can play at second.

Wichita State, ranked No. 28 in this week’s Collegiate Baseball poll, is the fourth nationally ranked team to visit Les Murakami Stadium this season.

The Shockers rank in the top 20 in the country in earned-run average and hits allowed per nine innings, and are 10th in the country with 50 stolen bases in 25 games. They’ve won their past six games against the Rainbows.

“They’re always a team that has a great mixture of speed and power,” Trapasso said. “They’re your typical Wichita State team that will be well coached and has a lot of talent.”

Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson is in his 34rd year at the helm, trailing only Texas coach Augie Garrido among active coaches with 1,741 career wins.

Shortstop Tyler Grimes leads the nation with 35 walks and ranks eighth with 31 runs scored.

Hawaii is 12th in the country allowing only 2.32 walks per nine innings. Junior Matt Sisto, who has only walked nine in 39-2⁄3 innings, will start tomorrow’s game in order to pitch on a regular week’s rest.

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