Just like that, the Hawaii baseball team has reached the halfway point of the Big West Conference season.
The Rainbow Warriors don’t have their bye week in the conference until the last weekend of the regular season, when they play games against Abilene Christian and Arizona (twice) in Tucson, Ariz. So they will be the first to finish conference play.
A look at the Big West standings shows Hawaii in a tie for sixth place with UC Davis, which the ‘Bows swept a little over two weeks ago.
Three of Hawaii’s last four series are against No. 10 UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State, which are a combined 19-11 in conference and all playing for a postseason berth. UH has yet to play bottom-feeder UC Riverside, which is only 1-8.
At 5-7, Hawaii has one less win than it had all of last season, when it finished tied with CSUN for last at 6-18.
The ‘Bows have been good at home (5-1) and bad on the road (0-6), although they did play well at UC Irvine. The two Cal Poly games in which they blew a 5-0 lead after 5 and a 2-0 lead in the seventh are the two games that are really going to sting the rest of the season. Imagine a 7-5 UH team hosting a 6-3, top-10 ranked UCSB team this weekend at the Les Murakami Stadium? That would have been huge.
There’s still plenty to play for if you’re Hawaii. It hasn’t shown it’s capable of competing in the Big West over the first two years, and a respectable record of .500 or better this season would change that. Juniors L.J. Brewster ( 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K vs. CSUN) and Tyler Brashears (1 or less ER allowed in six of last seven starts) have fared well at the top of the rotation and although Jarrett Arakawa ended up with a loss Sunday, he’s felt the best he has in three years the last two weeks and actually had some pretty good stuff against the Matadors (He struck out the side in 11 pitches in the fifth inning and retired 10 straight at one point). He seems like a guy that’s ready any start to have a monster outing and there’s no better time for it than Sunday against UCSB.
Of course, any lead after six innings from Game 1 on means Quintin Torres-Costa time. Torres-Costa has been unbelievable out of the bullpen. In his last eight appearances, Torres-Costa has thrown 14 scoreless innings allowing six hits, six walks and 22 strikeouts and in his last five innings, hasn’t walked a single batter.
There was some confusion to his velocity because TV was showing him touching 88 at his high point. The gun used by the UH coaching staff had Torres-Costa sitting 88 to 91 touching 92 and on one pitch Saturday, he hit 93. Clearly, the velocity is back.
It’s taken a lot longer than expected, but this team is slowly coming together. After losing 13 of 15 in games decided by two runs or less, Hawaii went 2-0 over in the weekend in those situations, thanks in large part to Torres-Costa. After this UCSB series, six of the last nine in conference and nine of the last 12 overall will be on the road, where Hawaii is 1-10 in true road games and 2-12 overall away from the Les.
UH will have to show it can play on the road like it has the last two home series. Finishing 7-5 against UCSB, Fullerton, Long Beach and UC Riverside is no easy task, but a .500 record in conference would be a solid accomplishment for a team that struggled so much in the beginning of the year.
‘Bows currently in the Big West Top 10
RBIs: Eric Ramirez, 26 (fifth); Kaeo Aliviado, 24 (seventh)
3Bs: Alan Baldwin, 2 (eighth)
HRs: Kaeo Aliviado, 4 (seventh)
Walks: Eric Ramirez, 26 (second); Kaeo Aliviado, 17 (10th)
OBP: Eric Ramirez, .426 (10th)
ERA: Tyler Brashears, 2.20 (10th)
IP: Tyler Brashears, 65 1/3 (eight); L.J. Brewster, 65 (ninth)
Wins: L.J. Brewster, 5 (fourth); Tyler Brashears, 5 (fourth)
Saves: Cody Culp, 4 (eighth), Quintin Torres-Costa, 3 (10th)