It was a classic college baseball series — meaning plenty of runs, 54 in four games to be exact. And since many more of them were scored by Hawaii than Wichita State, the Rainbows can head into the start of conference play next week with a full tank of confidence.
Taking three out of four from a ranked team with the iconic status of the Shockers makes up for being swept by Cal State Fullerton the previous week. And, unlike all four games against the Titans, the last two UH wins over WSU weren’t even close; the Rainbows finally displayed some consistency on the attack, scoring 12 runs both Friday and yesterday.
As usual, Kolten Wong was spectacular at the plate, and he got plenty of support from throughout the lineup.
SO IT WAS interesting that as the team walked toward the autograph hounds and the dugout after its series-ending meeting in right field, coach Mike Trapasso singled out for a personal attaboy, a guy who went 3-for-15 with four errors.
"He just told me, ‘Good job, keep it going,’ " sophomore third baseman Kalani Brackenridge said.
According to the scorebook, Brackenridge was hitless in the last two games against WSU. But his quality plate appearance that began with failure on Friday night did as much as anything else to turn the series around after UH had lost on Thursday.
The Rainbows trailed 2-0 with runners on first and second and none out in the fourth, and Brackenridge got the bunt signal. That’s one of the things he does well, but not this time, and Brackenridge soon faced an 0-2 count.
Nine pitches later, Brackenridge was hustling down to first base with a walk. Seven batters later, Michael Blake doubled to drive home the Rainbows’ seventh run of the inning.
The Shockers were in shock, and never came out of it, even when coach Gene Stephenson got himself ejected yesterday with the most animation shown by anyone affiliated with the visitors since UH’s 7-spot Friday.
Brackenridge’s gritty little one-on-one victory might not seem like much on the surface, but it did remove a good measure of the Wichita State mystique.
We’re not counting College World Series appearances here, he seemed to say. We’re counting number of pitches I’ll foul off until you either give me one to drill or walk me.
"I didn’t do my part, because I didn’t get the bunt down," is what Brackenridge actually said, yesterday. "So I had to fight off pitches and have a good eye."
Trapasso’s original plan was to keep Brackenridge on ice and play him in the outfield next season. But problems at other positions forced him to move Pi’ikea Kitamura around and created a void at third.
"He played infield (at Kapolei) and wants to play infield," Trapasso said. "He brings a lot of things to the lineup and he’ll keep getting better because of his work ethic. The more he plays, the more confidence he’ll get, at the plate and in the field. I told him, ‘I think we can use you this year; let’s burn that redshirt."
The coach said Brackenridge will continue to play third, along with A.J. Bayus.
BRACKENRIDGE IS all about baseball. "It’s my first love," he said. Football came in second, or he would’ve been around the corner yesterday, practicing at slot or cornerback with the Warriors.
"He gave up a full football scholarship to be a baseball walk-on last year," Trapasso said. "We got him something this year, but a baseball scholarship isn’t as much as a football scholarship."
Some of us incorrectly hypothesized Brackenridge would end up playing football because that’s what his brother does, and does very well. Tyron Brackenridge is a cornerback with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
And that can lead to another inaccurate conclusion. Just because someone’s sibling is a pro athlete doesn’t mean someone is a player to whom everything comes easy. If, anything, Trapasso said, Kalani Brackenridge is a grinder. He’s the kind of player who can help your team … even when he bats .200 for the series, even when he fails to execute, at first.
"A lot of times when a guy doesn’t get the bunt down he’ll get frustrated and throw away the bat," Trapasso said. "With Kalani, it just made him more determined to make something positive out of it."