A look ahead: Pepperdine
After opening with nine games in nine days, the Hawaii baseball team got a good two days off from practice and five days off between games before starting up a four-game set at Pepperdine on Thursday. Game times are noon Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The Waves are 4-3 after losing two of three to a good Tulane team to open the season. Pepperdine swept Butler last week after a midweek loss to Long Beach State and hosts No. 21 UC Santa Barbara Tuesday night.
Pepperdine fell one game short of the College World Series last season, losing to TCU in the Super Regional.
The Waves have a .710 winning percentage at Eddy D. Field Stadium and went 22-7 at home lat season.
Top players include 2B Hutton Moyer and C Aaron Barnett. 2011 Konawaena graduate Kolten Yamaguchi is the backup catcher. RHP Jackson McClelland headlines the rotation. So far this season, he’s thrown 13 shutout innings allowing seven hits and eight walks with 11 strikeouts.
Hawaii’s outlook through nine games
The record is what counts and Hawaii is currently below .500 at 4-5. The reason? Four one-run losses. Hawaii left the tying run on third in the ninth inning twice against Hofstra and held a lead against Oregon in both the eighth and ninth inning of games it ultimately lost.
Offensively, UH has five regulars off to good starts. 1B Eric Ramirez (.414 BA, 12 hits, seven runs, seven RBIs); OF Kaeo Aliviado (.306, 2 doubles, 3 homers, eight runs, eight RBIs); OF Alan Baldwin (.364, 5 RBIs); 2B Stephen Ventimilia (.292, 3 doubles, 1 triple, five runs); C Chayce Ka’aua (.278, 2 doubles, six RBIs).
UH needs help on the left side of the infield. Outside of a 6-for-8 performance in the last two games of the Oregon series, 3B Alex Sawelson is 0-for-21. SS Jacob Sheldon-Collins was hitting .190 (4-for-21) before he was hurt. OF Matt LoCoco is hitting .074 (2-for-27).
Sheldon-Collins and LoCoco bring so much defensively that you can live with two guys struggling a little at the plate if they make up for it in the field. Sheldon-Collins has looked good in the No. 2 spot executing bunt situations and moving runners over. LoCoco you can stick in the nine hole knowing what a presence he is in the outfield with his arm holding runners from advancing bases. Sawelson is the guy that needs to hit, especially when he hits fourth or fifth in the lineup.
Freshman Jonathan Weeks had some good at-bats in the three games he started for Sheldon-Collins, going 4-for-11 with three runs scored. With Sheldon-Collins back, Weeks can play in the outfield to boost the offense, but you lose out on LoCoco’s defense.
Hawaii’s pitching staff is the deepest it has been since 2010. Relievers Cody Culp and Matt Valencia have combined to allow only three hits in 11 scoreless innings. RHP L.J. Brewster (2-0, 2.19 ERA) continues to dazzle as a starter and might be UH’s No. 1 guy by the end of the season. LHP Jarrett Arakawa could get some work in as early as this weekend in Pepperdine and will be back in the starting rotation once healthy enough. RHP Kyle Von Ruden (1-0, 2.38) has been great as a No. 4 starter. Both RHP Tyler Brashears (1-1, 4.38) and LHP Quintin Torres-Costa (0-1, 5.06) have thrown fairly well with both the victims of a little bad luck. Torres-Costa has 15 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings.
Overall, the staff is comfortably eight deep without Arakawa, and that doesn’t include senior Andrew Jones (0-2, 5.40) who is looking closer to his old form (eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings). Josh Pigg‘s ERA is high (11.57) after the Oregon game in which he was the victim of an unfavorable call by the umpire, but he has shown some electric closer-type stuff.
First road trips are always interesting for newcomers and Pepperdine is a tough place to play. By the time the Rainbow Warriors return from Texas the following week, we should have a pretty good idea of how this team stacks up to the rest of the Big West.