A Light’s-out Power Surge In Manoa

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - May 06, 2009
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The Manoa Mashers (from left), Kevin Macdonald, Vinnie Catricala and Kolten Wong

If it feels like a power surge in Manoa these days, don’t worry. You honestly don’t have to turn down your air conditioning.

If it feels like electricity is in the air when you’re driving past the University of Hawaii, there’s nothing to fear. You don’t have to check your battery lights.

The power surge is coming from the high-voltage bats of UH Rainbows Kevin Macdonald, Kolten Wong and Vinnie Catricala - who have combined to hit more home runs than any trio in the past 20 years for the Rainbows.

The electricity is coming from what those home runs have meant, as the Bows have surged into the national rankings and have a chance to achieve what has been virtually unreachable for the past decade and a half: a conference title and a spot in the NCAA tournament.

For the first time since the late 1980s and early ‘90s - from 1988 to 1992 when the popular tourney was held here five seasons in a row - the WAC championship tournament will be played in Manoa. The dates are May 21-24 (and tickets are already on sale at the UH ticket offices and online.)

Old-timers vividly remember the charged atmosphere of WAC tournaments past, when players like John Matias and Joey Meyer thrilled the crowds with monstrous shots over “Big Blue” (the popular nickname for the outfield fence), and Hawaii won WAC tournament titles in 1982, 1984, 1987, 1989 and 1992 - more than any other school in conference baseball history.

Nowadays, Big Blue is gone, but the powerful images of Matias and Meyer have been rekindled by Macdonald, Wong and Catricala.

Macdonald, the junior first baseman from the desert of Southern California, has a chance to catch the home run marks of both Matias and Meyer by season’s end. He’s into double digit four-baggers already, and the launching pad all-time record is 16, set by Meyer.

The team record also is within sight, as the 2009 Manoa Mashers have moved into second place in the UH record books and are within reach of the all-time school record of 58 homers set by the 1983 Rainbows (Meyer, Glenn Braggs, Mario Monaco and others).

What’s the difference this year? Confidence, for one.

Macdonald showed just what confidence could do when he blasted off for four home runs in the series against Sacramento State. It was a hitting confidence that wasn’t there for the 6-foot first baseman the last couple seasons, as Macdonald hit only two homers total in his first two years with the ‘Bows.

Wong, meanwhile, flexed his powerful muscles even more spectacularly when he lifted three homers out of Murakami Stadium in the same game, a 6-5 early season victory over visiting Loyola-Marymount. That feat had Rainbow fans buzzing like they haven’t since the power surges of the 1980s and early ‘90s.

Wong followed that up with a 16-game hitting streak, and looks to end the year with the highest batting average of the team - quite impressive for a freshman from Hilo who turned down a professional offer to play for the Minnesota Twins when he finished high school last spring.

Catricala also is hitting over .300 and reminds some Rainbow fans of a young Mike Schmidt with the way he prowls the line at third base, and the way he powers out the long ball in impressive fashion. He hit a towering shot to left against Sac State that was a jaw dropper.

All three - Macdonald, Wong and Catricala - have had double-digit multiple hit games, too - an offensive statistic that usually means lights out for the opposition.

Hawaii fans should feel really charged up about this spectacular power surge - a surge that can ultimately lead them to victory in the WAC tournament later this month. So, turn up the lights! The electric bill in Manoa is ready to go way up - perhaps all the way to the NCAA regionals.

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