MESA, Ariz. » As a duo, the numbers are staggering.
Hawaii relievers Lenny Linsky and Blair Walters have combined for eight wins, 15 saves and a 2.25 ERA in 72 innings.
It’s rare to see one struggle, but to see both have bad outings, as happened in the regular-season series against San Jose State, was shocking.
The two got their chance at redemption Thursday and made the most of it. Each threw a shutout inning to preserve a 2-1 victory over the Spartans in the Western Athletic Conference tournament at Hohokam Stadium.
"It was a big outing for both Blair and Lenny because just a couple of weeks ago, (San Jose) knocked them around a little bit," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "Credit to them to come in and bounce back and they got the job done for us."
San Jose State’s only win over UH this season came when Walters allowed five runs in a third of an inning, giving up a hit, two walks and a hit batter in a 7-3 loss.
Thursday night, Walters entered the game with a runner on first and no outs in the eighth. If it weren’t for a passed ball, Danny Stienstra‘s infield single with two outs wouldn’t have scored Michael DiRocco with what proved to be SJSU’s only run.
"We showed what we got when we threw strikes and went after them," Walters said. "I had some good run on my fastball tonight and made them beat me instead of (last time) when I walked a lot of guys and let them beat me."
Linsky gave up two of his five earned runs this season against the Spartans in a game Hawaii came back and won.
He made it interesting, walking back-to-back hitters with one out in the ninth, but locked down his 26th career save, moving him within two of the UH record.
Through eight games to start the season, Hawaii committed a staggering 20 errors.
The Rainbows haven’t made that many in their past 17 games.
As tight as Thursday’s 2-1 victory played out, UH had to make every play defensively without a mistake.
They did and then some, getting key stops from second baseman Kolten Wong and shortstop Jesse Moore to aid in the victory.
Wong made a diving stop of a ground ball hit by DiRocco in the second inning, throwing him out at first with a runner on third to end the frame.
Moore fielded a tough in-between hop with runners on first and second in the ninth, tossing the ball to Wong at second for the out that set up the final at-bat of the game.
"We’ve been trying from day one to be a really good defensive team," Wong said. "I had to lay out to keep that run from scoring and I was just happy to make the play."
Making the at-large case
With the victory, Hawaii improved its RPI to 64 as of late last night.
The Rainbows are 8-12 against the RPI top 100 and received two votes in the latest ESPN/USA Today Top 25 poll.
Hawaii won a share of the regular-season championship in a league that finished 20-15 against the West Coast Conference, 6-4 against the Mountain West and 9-9 against the Pacific-10.
Fresno State quickly atoned for its three-game sweep at the hands of Cal State Bakersfield last weekend, pounding Louisiana Tech 13-1 in seven innings Thursday.
WAC pitcher of the year Greg Gonzalez ran his perfect record to 11-0, allowing one run on four hits in going the distance.
Player of the year Dusty Robinson hit a three-run homer and finished with four RBIs and Danny Muno went 2-for-4 with four runs scored.
Aggies two and out
Before Hawaii played its first game, New Mexico State was the first team eliminated from the tournament after losing to Nevada 15-4 in another game that ended early due to the 10-run mercy rule.
The sixth-seeded Aggies (34-24) split against the Rainbows last weekend and were 10-run-ruled in three of their final five games.
Waylen Sing Chow, a 2007 Kamehameha graduate, tripled, scored twice and drove in three runs for the Wolf Pack (24-30), who play San Jose State at 8 a.m.