As Jim Ross would say for much of my childhood on Monday nights, “business is about to pick up.”
Big West play begins this weekend with six of the nine teams sporting an RPI of 86 or better. For Hawaii, conference play opens at home against the one team the Rainbow Warriors have yet to beat in the last three years since joining the conference in 2013.
The Anteaters (15-7) are one of five teams with at least twice as many wins than losses. Hawaii played a pretty good series last year in Irvine, Calif., but still couldn’t take a game against UCI, losing all three by a total of five runs.
It’s been kind of hard to figure out this baseball team this year. Clearly, the move from a four-game series to a three-game set is huge. Hawaii was 1-4 in the fourth game of a series. The bigger question is figuring out which UH team you’re going to get? Is it the one that took two of the last three from Santa Clara or was a ninth-inning blown save away from sweeping USF on the road or took two of the first three against West Virginia? If that’s the team that shows up on a game-by-game basis, then UH will compete.
If it’s the team that played Michigan, New Mexico or Chicago State, it could be a long season. I expect to see more of the team that really competed at the plate the last three games of the Broncos series last weekend. Hawaii’s got two very capable starters in Brendan Hornung (2-5, 2.51 ERA) and Kyle Von Ruden (3-1, 2.61). Alex Hatch (2-2, 4.10) has had four quality starts out of six appearances and his ERA is 3.06 over his last five starts.
You’ll take that starting pitching if it keeps up every day of the week.
This team has to score runs. We’ve been saying it from the moment UH joined the BWC. Matt LoCoco (.253 BA/.388 OBP) and Jacob Sheldon-Collins (.386 BA/.440 OBP) have done a solid job of getting on base at the top of the lineup. Where UH has struggled pretty much for its entire run in the Big West is hitting with runners in scoring position. Look at the box score after every game. Chances are, if two of the three between Johnny Weeks, Eric Ramirez and Marcus Doi are hitting, UH will find itself with a win.
Hawaii took a big step forward finishing 12-12 in conference last season despite getting swept by UCI, Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly. Find a way to have just some success against those three schools and maybe UH can finally get over the hump and finish with a winning record.
It starts this weekend.