Rainbows have found winning formula

Junior Tyler Brashears has won two straight Big West pitcher of the week awards. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.
Junior Tyler Brashears has won two straight Big West pitcher of the week awards. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

After losing two leads late at Cal Poly, Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso told Quintin Torres-Costa to be ready.

At 3-6 in Big West play, Trapasso made the decision that they would ride Torres-Costa every single game as long as he was up for it.

It’s at that point that the entire 2015 season changed for the Rainbow Warrior baseball team. Since then, Hawaii is 7-3 in BWC games to move over .500 at 10-9. Heading into Friday’s game at UC Riverside, the ‘Bows trail the trio of conference leaders by one game in the win column and have won four straight road games after starting 2-12 away from Les Murakami Stadium.

Yes, the team has hit a little better and Tyler Brashears has been incredible, riding a 21-inning scoreless streak to win back-to-back Big West pitcher of the week awards. But look no further than the Tommy John boys — Torres-Costa and Andrew Jones — as the primary reason for the late-season turnaround.

Check out these stats in Big West games:

Torres-Costa: 10 app, 15 2/3 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 7 BB, 19 K, 7 SV, 0.00 ERA.
Jones: 6 app, 13 1/3 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 12 K, 1 SV, 2.03 ERA.

Hawaii hasn’t used any other relievers on the current road trip. The starter has pitched into the sixth inning in all four victories and Jones and Torres-Costa have been able to go the rest. It has also helped that Brashears has gone at least 7 2/3 innings in each of his last three starts, allowing Jones and Torres-Costa to get some rest in the middle game of the series.

Torres-Costa’s numbers are unbelievable, but Hawaii has also needed that bridge guy to get through the seventh and sometimes eighth inning. Jones has done exactly that.

Two years ago, both were slated to be huge contributors in their first seasons at UH. Torres-Costa was the No. 2 starter coming out of the fall as a freshman and Jones, a junior-college transfer, was filthy in his UH debut when he struck out four Oregon hitters and retired seven in a row out of the bullpen before injuring his elbow. Two weeks later, Torres-Costa did the same and both became the Tommy John brothers, going through rehab together after surgery cost them a full year.

They tried to come back last year but were ineffective. At the start of this season, both struggled mightily and Torres-Costa fell out of the rotation after three weeks while Jones threw a whopping 4 2/3 innings over a 19-game stretch.

Torres-Costa found himself as a reliever and has been dominant for a seven-week stretch, but it’s taken Jones a little longer.

Trapasso said it came down to a mind-set they had to change.

“I think when we just started being more aggressive with the fastball and he really attacks more with the fastball now,” Trapasso said. “He’s not throwing the secondary pitches like he tried to throw earlier. He’s fastball, slider now instead of fastball, curveball, slider, cutter.”

“Just too many pitches to work with so we simplified things. Really going more fastball oriented changed his mind-set to be more aggressive and then the command came because the only reason he wasn’t pitching more earlier as much as we wanted him is he wasn’t throwing many strikes.”

He’s walked four in his last 12 1/3 innings after issuing 11 in 17 2/3 innings. With Brashears (7-4, 1.78) and L.J. Brewster (6-4, 2.92) pitching well all season and Jarrett Arakawa coming off six scoreless innings against Long Beach State, Hawaii has found the formula. Get at least six innings from the starters, hand it over to Jones and finish it off with Torres-Costa.

It’s been a winner.