FRESNO, Calif. » All year long, Hawaii baseball coach Mike Trapasso has preached the same message — each and every Western Athletic Conference game has the same value. They’re all just 1/24 of the conference season.
That message could be tested right now. The Rainbows looked awful last night, falling to Fresno State 12-2 in a game ended in the bottom of the seventh due to the mercy rule.
Nothing went right for Hawaii. Not its starting pitching — Connor Little came out with two outs in the second after failing to retire a batter in his last start. Not its defense — the Rainbows committed four errors, which led to six unearned runs. And not its offense — just six hits in seven innings against Tom Harlan and Derek Benny.
Little was the big news. Trapasso spoke to him briefly after the team’s postgame huddle. Little looked a little shell-shocked after the game and Trapasso said there’s something wrong with the right-hander’s pitching elbow.
"He’s been sore for a couple of weeks now and he’s going to have to skip a start or two because his elbow’s bothering him and it was really bothering him out there today and that’s why I took him out," Trapasso said. "He couldn’t get the ball over 85 miles an hour. He’s going to be out for a little while. We need to let that thing settle down. That’s going to put a burden on our pitching. Pitching depth has been a strength and we’ll see if that’s really the case now."
Trapasso said the fourth starter position for next weekend’s series at Nevada is TBA at the moment, but either Randy Yard or Jesse Moore will make the start. Moore started six games earlier in the season before hitting his own injury woes. He made his first appearance on the mound since March 30 yesterday in mop-up duty, allowing the final run in the seventh. Yard also pitched yesterday and would be making his first start of the season.
Little left in the second inning trailing just 1-0. He walked three batters and allowed a hit in the frame, so he got out with the least damage. Yard came on to get Danny Muno to fly out.
The fourth inning was the Rainbows’ undoing. Garrett Weber and Kenny Wise led off the inning with back-to-back home runs off Yard. When he walked Aaron Judge following the blasts, Trapasso came out with the hook.
Enter Brent Harrison, who waved off third baseman Pi‘ikea Kitamura on Austin Wynns’ sacrifice bunt, then muffed the ball and lost the play. That keyed what would become a six-run inning.
With the way Tom Harlan was pitching for Fresno State (30-9, 10-5 WAC), the game was effectively over. Harlan ended up going 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits, striking out six against no walks. Hawaii (24-19, 9-3) got its only runs in the sixth when Jeffrey Van Doornum doubled in Breland Almadova and Kolten Wong.
The Rainbows ended up splitting the four-game series, remaining a half-game up on the Bulldogs in the WAC standings. However, after winning the first two games, it almost felt like Fresno State had won the series, a notion Trapasso dismissed.
"Not to us, not at all," he said. "You look at each game as 1/24 and each series as a win, a loss or a split. The reality is we’re leaving here in the exact same position that we came here in and that’s in first place. Now, we’ve just got to go out and play better next weekend than we did tonight."
Van Doornum tried his best to look at it the same way.
"We won the first two games, we obviously wanted to try to win the series on the road," he said. "We’d take a split versus a top-ranked team like Fresno. I mean, I guess it’s a successful road trip."
NO. 17 FRESNO STATE 12, HAWAII 2
E–Kitamura; Van Doornum; Moore; Harrison; Weber; Hutcheson. DP–Hawaii; Fresno State 1. LOB–Hawaii 6, Fresno St. 8. 2B–Van Doornum; Robinson. HR–Weber; Wise. SH–Champion; Wynns; Hutcheson. SB–Gowens; Judge.
WP–Little; Blake 2; Harlan.