The 2019 baseball season was going adequately for Hawaii, until it wasn’t. And “wasn’t” happened in a hurry but will linger through the entire offseason.
UH was a passable 18-20 overall and 7-6 in the Big West Conference on April 26. The Rainbow Warriors were riding some lingering “Bowmentum” a few days after Logan Pouelsen’s dramatic walk-off home run over Cal State Fullerton.
Optimism abounded entering a two-week, eight-game road trip. The trek even started with promise. UH knocked off San Diego in a nonconference matchup to open the trip, then won the opener in a series at Cal State Northridge on some late-inning heroics by catcher Tyler Murray. It was UH’s fourth straight win.
But then that trip, and the year, went south faster than the final two seasons of “Game of Thrones.” UH (20-30, 8-16 Big West) proceeded to go 2-10 the rest of the way, and Mike Trapasso was nearly hung with his 500th career loss to go with the 500th win celebration April 30. (Trapasso, UH’s 18th-year head man who agreed to a multi-year contract extension in 2018, is now 501-499.)
With Saturday’s 9-4 loss at Long Beach State, an ignominious end was made complete. It was UH’s sixth straight loss overall and 10th Big West defeat in its last 11 conference games.
As our baseball beat writer Stephen Tsai has mentioned, there’ve been some cumulative injuries that have forced players out of position and inhibited the team. UH’s starting rotation was a bit of a mess.
UPDATE: Tsai’s full season wrap story can be read here.)
But there’s run-of-the-mill ways to close a season poorly, and then there’s what happened to UH. It was the first time since 2015, and third time in the last 18 years, that the Rainbows lost six or more consecutive games to end a season. Two times in the last four games, UH’s celebrated reliever, the likely MLB-bound Dylan Thomas, uncharacteristically blew saves, including a gut punch on senior day in an extra-innings loss against eventual Big West champ UC Santa Barbara. Incidentally, that game was the difference between the Gauchos winning the title outright and being chased down by Cal Poly in the final week; the Mustangs finished a game back.
— Hawaii Warrior World (@hawaiiwworld) May 22, 2019
Adding insult to injury, LBSU entered the week as the worst team in the conference, 11-41 overall and 5-16 in BWC play. But the Dirtbags — who fired their coach, Troy Buckley, at midseason — played like a team with something to play for. Long Beach swept the Rainbows and latched on to UH and UC Riverside for conference caboose honors; all three teams finished in the rear at 8-16.
A few more notes about UH’s final standing in 2019:
>> UH lost its last four Big West series after taking two of its first four.
>> UH’s Big West winning percentage of .333 was its second-worst as a BWC member, outdone only by 2014’s 6-18 (.250) showing.
>> UH finished, as of this writing, 243 of 299 Division I teams in RPI.
>> It marked the first time UH finished in last place, or tied for it, as a Big West member since joining the league in 2013. (You could say UH, LBSU and UCR tied for seventh, but that would be very charitable, as no teams finished below UH in the standings, and the teams that tied with UH both won the head-to-head series from the Rainbows.)
>> The last time UH finished last was in 2002 in the Western Athletic Conference, Trapasso’s first season with a rebuilding program. That squad went 5-25 in the WAC and lost its final eight games.