Through 28 games, the Hawaii Rainbows are exactly where they were last year heading into Western Athletic Conference play.
When league play ends in two months, UH hopes the same still holds true.
The Rainbows will begin defense of their WAC title riding the momentum of two offensive explosions, pounding out a season-high 15 hits in a 12-3 victory over Wichita State yesterday afternoon at Les Murakami Stadium.
In front of a crowd of 1,455, the Rainbows evened their record at .500, finishing off a string of 28 straight nonconference games, including 15 against ranked teams.
Hawaii was 14-14 last year heading into WAC play, which ended with a victory over Fresno State to clinch its first WAC championship in 18 years.
"It’s a good luck charm for us, hopefully," said Kolten Wong, who polished off a huge weekend with four hits and four RBIs yesterday. Wong finished the series against the Shockers (18-11), ranked 28th by Collegiate Baseball, batting .500 (8-for-16) with a triple, a home run, seven runs scored and nine RBIs.
Hawaii scored a season-high 12 runs in each of the final two games of the series, combining for 28 hits. Sophomore Breland Almadova, who doubled and scored twice yesterday, had eight hits and scored five runs in the series.
"I’ve found myself in a groove from the first night," Almadova said. "Trying to be a great leadoff batter and get on base is all I’m trying to do out there."
The Rainbows, who were hitting .224 after they were swept by Cal State Fullerton last week, batted .325 in the series, drawing 26 walks.
Six different Rainbows had at least five hits in the series, including Pi’ikea Kitamura, who hit a two-run double and scored three times yesterday.
"We couldn’t have asked for a better time to pick it up," Kitamura said. "We had a rough series against Fullerton, but wanted to come back and play well against Wichita and get on a roll heading into WAC play."
Hawaii opens with Sacramento State on Friday night.
"The timing is really the critical factor here," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "We really started swinging the bats well against a very good team and to play another ranked team coming off a weekend in which we didn’t play good enough to win, our guys showed a lot of pride and understand the adversity that we’ve faced this year."
Junior Jesse Moore, who got a no-decision in the opener on Wednesday, didn’t play in the field all weekend, but hopes to get at least one start at shortstop against the Hornets.
Freshman Jarrett Arakawa gave up two runs in the first inning, but only one hit over the next five to improve to 2-2 for the season. The left-hander walked two and struck out a career-high eight.
Hawaii, which fell behind in all four games of the series, took the lead for good in the third inning on an RBI single by Wong, who took second on the throw to third.
Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson protested the call and was eventually ejected.
With the Shockers still within reach, trailing 7-3, Hawaii scored five in the eighth to turn the game into a blowout. Two errors helped set the stage for Wong, whose two-run triple to right-center was the big blow in the inning.
Charlie Lowell (4-4) took the loss for Wichita State, allowing seven runs — six earned — in 51/3 innings.
HAWAII 12, WICHITA STATE 3
|Grimes ss||4||0||0||0||Almadova cf||4||2||1||0|
|Hall cf||3||1||0||0||Kitamura ss||3||3||1||2|
|O’Brien c||3||2||2||2||Wong 2b||5||3||4||4|
|Coy 1b||4||0||1||1||Van Drnm lf||5||1||2||1|
|Springer dh||4||0||0||0||Swasey dh||5||0||2||1|
|Hege rf||4||0||1||0||Bennett rf||5||0||1||0|
|Davidson 2b||3||0||0||0||Blake 1b||5||1||2||1|
|Halbert ph||1||0||0||0||Champion c||4||2||2||0|
|Parker 3b||4||0||0||0||Brcknrdg 3b||2||0||0||0|
|Green lf||3||0||0||0||Bayus 3b||1||0||0||0|
|Wichita St. (18-11)||200||000||010||—||3||4||3|
E–Grimes 2, Kemp, Kitamura 3, Brackenridge. DP–Hawaii 1. LOB–WSU 6, Hawaii 8. 2B–O’Brien, Coy, Almadova, Kitamura. 3B–Wong. HR–O’Brien. SB–Grimes, Davidson, Almadova, Wong. CS–Wong, Swasey.
WP–Lowell, Kemp. BK–Lowell.
Umpires–(Plate): Adam Dowdy. (First): Danny Mascorro. (Third): Rich Padilla. T–2:40. A–1,455.