The first weekend of Division I college baseball in 2008 is in the books. The uniform start date might not be until Feb. 22, but Hawaii and Hawaii-Hilo were allowed to start one week early because of their remote location, and though the Rainbows won the series, the Vulcans snapped their 15-game losing streak against their in-state rivals with a 4-3 win Sunday. The series was much more competitive than the usual set between these two clubs–even Friday, it took Hawaii 11 innings to pull out a 5-4 win.
"We played about as bad as we can play–we haven’t had a practice that bad," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said of his team’s performance on the weekend. "That was about as bad as we’ll play offensively. We just didn’t have any rhythm offensively, and it’s not like it was against really good pitching. When you lose a game to UH-Hilo, you had better wake up and learn to respect all of your opponents.
"Honestly, they came out and competed, and we really didn’t. We came out with a little mindset of assumption, and we just didn’t compete this weekend, that was our biggest problem. Hopefully we can learn from it."
One National League area scout who attended the series came away unimpressed with both clubs, but he said the Rainbows have a few players worth keeping an eye on. The best of the lot might be senior center fielder Brandon Haislet, who went 3-for-8 on the weekend with three walks and a hit-by-pitch.
"He’s an athletic center fielder who can run, throw and hit a little bit," the scout said. "He should have gone out last year. He’s a plus runner with a line-drive bat. He’s a big kid, physical, 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. He’s interesting. He could be a big-time money saver if somebody can get him as a senior."
Hawaii catcher Landon Hernandez also attracted some interest for his solid catch-and-throw skills, though the scout said he "needs to become a little more offensive." As for junior righthander Matt Daly, who started Friday and allowed two runs on four hits and four walks while striking out seven over six innings, the scout said he topped out at 94 mph and sat in the 90-91 range with his fastball, and he flashed a good, hard, overhand curveball. But he’s undersized at 5-foot-11 and has a max-effort delivery, and Trapasso indicated he might end up back in the bullpen as Hawaii’s promising freshmen starters get more comfortable. And with righthander Alex Bates on the shelf for the next few weeks thanks to tendinitis, the Rainbows might need Daly in the pen sooner than later.
"We’re trying to experiment," Trapasso said. "Matt’s really good out of the pen, and that’s where he’s going to be at the next level, but he wants to be a starter, and he deserves the opportunity to be a starter. In the past he’s been outstanding for us out of the bullpen but hasn’t been as aggressive as a starter, a little tentative, tries to be too fine rather than trusting his stuff and pitching with the mindset that’s the same out of the bullpen. He continues to have a high pitch count when he starts, so we have to go to the pen around the sixth inning. We know if we put him in the pen, he’ll be as good a closer as there is in the league, so we have that luxury, and we just may do that."
As for the change-of-season plan, which prevents other Division I teams from traveling to Hawaii before Feb. 22 and renders Hawaii’s exemption virtually useless, Trapasso is understandably frustrated. Hawaii and UH-Hilo attempted to get an exemption that would have allowed other teams to visit the islands early to alleviate the difficulty of scheduling 56 games in such a remote location, but in Trapasso’s words, "it got no where." Even the support of American Baseball Coaches Association executive director Dave Keilitz couldn’t save the proposal.
"I don’t even think they discussed it, and that’s a shame," he said. "Dave Keilitz told me he would support it, and we pushed hard, but it was looked at on the same day as the overrides and other stuff, and we were just kind of roadkill on the highway of baseball reform, I guess."
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