Hawaii baseball: 2019 season came apart at the seams

UC Santa Barbara infielder McClain O'Connor slid into second base ahead of the tag from UH's Jack Kennelly during the Gauchos' three-game sweep of the Rainbows in the final home series of 2019 last week. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

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.

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.


  1. Matt May 26, 2019 9:02 pm

    That’s what’s been a struggle with teams coached by Mike Trapasso. Ever since we joined the BWC, we haven’t been able to maintain the same standards like how we did in the WAC days. A 70-101 BWC record is not something a coach should be proud to have, and neither is a 501-499 overall record. As much as his 500 wins is appreciated, it cannot make up against the terrible losses they suffered against teams in the bottom of the conference and games that they should have won (Both during non-conference and conference). Ever since Fogel’s season-ending injury, it’s been mass chaos to the team in general.

    I can even hear the fans starting multiple riots, more worse than the ones in the Michigan-Ohio State football games. Everybody wants Trap OUT!!! Matlin gave him a second chance with Trap’s two winning seasons, and having gone back to another losing season, you wonder if this should be the last straw for him. Let’s assess with what should be the reason Trap should be fired:

    1) Twice the team went on a 6-game losing streak (During non-conference and conference)
    2) Team lost on Senior Night, only to also end on a 6-game losing streak (And against last place LBSU of all things)
    3) Has been on a 9-year postseason slump, and has not had a winning conference record (Despite a 12-12 record in 2016, but still not enough to satisfy the fans)

    Three strikes to Trap. This should be enough solid evidence for him to be fired. I don’t know what else would convince Matlin to fire Trap because I just gave pretty much everything that I can give for why the baseball program should make a big change during the offseason.

  2. H-man May 27, 2019 4:48 pm

    While trying to remain positive, I have very little to hang on to with being swept by theDirtbags to close out the season. Hate to say it, but perhaps time to give another coach a chance to turn things around.

  3. cappie the dog May 27, 2019 5:02 pm


    I am always positive. Every season, I hope that this is the year they return to the post-season. At first, I was in your camp. If this was their won-loss record with all their players healthy, it would be a no-brainer. One more season.

    Bring the fences in. It’ll get the pitchers better prepared for the road. The ball just dies. It’s amazing to witness live.

  4. Patti May 27, 2019 7:02 pm

    I’ve been a solid supporter of the program for many years but the way we ended the season is unacceptable. After making gains in the BWC from cellar to middle of the pack to fall back again to the cellar is unacceptable.

    It’s time for a coaching change. Matlin, do your job.

Comments are closed.