Back To The Regionals Again

Bobby Curran
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Friday - June 02, 2006
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Sitting down to watch the NCAA Baseball selection show on ESPN on Memorial Day, I felt pretty confident that the 43-15 Rainbows would receive an at-large bid to the regionals. Their credentials were pretty fine with a 16-3 road record, pseudo RPI of 34, 17-6 conference slate and getting to the championship game of the WAC tournament. Gotta get ‘em in, right?

And then, as the regionals were announced, and two of the three western sites were filled with no mention of Hawaii, I started to think back on some other very good Hawaii teams that had been snubbed. A 50-win baseball team had been left out. Vince Goo had a 28-4 Wahine basketball team led by Judy Mosley that was passed by. Riley Wallace had Alika Smith and Anthony Carter with a 21-win team that beat No. 2 Kansas and smoked Bobby Knight’s Indiana team, and got overlooked.

Could it possibly happen again? Boy, I let out a huge breath when Hawaii was announced for the Corvallis Regional.

Time was Hawaii seemed to go to a regional about every other year, at least since the College World Series team of 1980. Some of those teams came tantalizingly close to getting back to Omaha. In 1986, Hawaii went undefeated into the championship round in Los Angeles, needing to beat Loyola Marymount once in two games in order to advance, and came up short. In 1992, a very strong Hawaii team was sent to Tucson, where they promptly lost the opener to Southeastern Louisiana, and then marched through the loser’s bracket, dispatching Arizona, S.E Louisiana and Washington, which put them in the position of having to beat Pepperdine twice to go back to Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha.

They got a pitching gem from Scott Karl in the first game and won 6-3, only to get bombed in the second game 9-0. Pepperdine went on to win the College World Series that year. In 1993, Hawaii made the regional in College Station, Texas, and was knocked out in three games. They haven’t been since, not until now.

The format is different these days. Instead of eight six-team regionals, with the winner going to Omaha, now there are 16 four-team regionals, with winners paired up in a best of three Super Regionals, with survivors going to the World Series. It may be tougher now, because the NCAA seeds the top eight teams in the country, and “protects” them by guaranteeing that they won’t have to face each other until the World Series - which about guarantees that a team like Hawaii, if it comes out on top of its four-team regional, will have to play one of the marquee teams, and do it at their place. A difficult road, to be sure. But not an impossible one, and here’s why:

Hawaii is pitching rich with three reliable starters in WAC pitcher of the year Steven Wright along with Justin Costi and Ian Harrington. The bullpen is extremely solid with Tyler Davis, Matt Daly and Darrell Fisherbaugh. And good pitching beats good hitting, especially at this time of the year. The Rainbows may not have a ton of home-run power, but they have solid gap hitters, and they play excellent defense, seemingly turning inning-ending double plays on demand. In the WAC Tournament, they committed only one error in five games.

Mike Trapasso, in his sixth year, has gotten this group right where he promised he would get the program. Into a regional and poised to do some damage. With top seed Oregon State, Wright State and Hawaii’s first game opponent Kansas, the field will be talented. It won’t be easy, but don’t bet against the Rainbows. This bunch has a little something special about it, and they never, ever give up.

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