Matt Sisto is one of those few recruits Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso didn’t have to work exceptionally hard for.
A trip to the islands as a freshman in high school for a local baseball showcase was enough for Sisto to decide early that Hawaii was the place for him.
"Saw the facilities and fell in love with a place that there’s nothing else on the West Coast that compares to this," said the 6-foot-5 junior right-hander from Anaheim, Calif. "As far as the fans and the field, there’s nothing better, and when the recruiting process started and after I talked to Coach Trap … it was an easy choice."
Hawaii’s laid-back setting was perfect for the mild-mannered Sisto, who committed to play for the Rainbows early in his junior year. He began his career by beating No. 1-ranked UC Irvine in his first start and has really stepped up his game in the past year to become the ace of a pitching staff that is putting up monster numbers.
Since moving to the top of the rotation at the start of the year, Sisto has a 2.33 ERA, which is nearly three runs a game better than a year ago. In his past 13 starts dating back to last year, Sisto is 4-5 with a 2.03 ERA, including back-to-back postseason starts in which he allowed two runs each in seven-inning wins over Fresno State and San Diego.
>> Who: Louisiana Tech (17-15, 2-2 Western Athletic Conference) at Hawaii (18-14, 4-0)
"He really was outstanding the last month of the season last year and came up big in the tournament and in the regional," Trapasso said. "He’s carried that over this year, and the wins and losses part is just part of being a Friday guy.
"He’s gone head-to-head with probably two or three first-rounders, so it’s not the easiest thing, but his job is to go out there and keep us in games while we try to scratch and claw against the other teams’ best pitcher and he’s done that."
His performance at the end of his sophomore year gave him an opportunity to pitch in the Cape Cod League over the summer. He was teammates with Kolten Wong on the Orleans Firebirds and posted a 1.88 ERA in 381⁄3 innings, walking two batters.
He has walked 13 batters in 54 innings this season.
"Regardless of numbers, we’ve never had a guy go to the Cape Cod League and not improve, whether it’s a pitcher or a hitter," Trapasso said. "So I think that was helpful for him as well."
Since the end of last year, Sisto’s improved his velocity, getting his fastball to touch 90 mph. He’s added a slider to his repertoire and continued to improve on his best pitch, his changeup.
Ultimately, those two starts to end the 2010 season are what he believes got him on track to perform as well as he has this year.
"That was the springboard for me going into the summer and getting here," Sisto said. "You’ve got to step up and not lay an egg in the postseason, and between that and gaining confidence pitching against those good hitters in the Cape, it’s helped me get here."
Sisto says Hawaii has "without a doubt" been a perfect fit.
"I’m a laid-back guy and that’s kind of the way things are here," Sisto said. "A lot of the work is up to yourself to make yourself better and they don’t try to force it on you. That’s the way I like it."
Sisto will make the 34th start of his career tonight when the Rainbows open a four-game series against Louisiana Tech.
The Bulldogs are responsible for his worst outing over the past 12 months, knocking him around for eight hits and six runs in 3 2⁄3 innings in a game in Ruston, La., last April.
"It’s a tough trip out there with the 8-hour flight against a team that can hit, but this year they’ve got to come out here to play us," Sisto said. "With 4,000 fans and the best homefield advantage in the country, I think, we should be able to win every series we play here."