'Bows advance to WAC title game
By Don Ketchum
Special to The Honolulu Advertiser
MESA, Ariz. — Take a deep breath of the warm desert air, swing away and watch the ball fly.
The University of Hawai'i baseball team is hitting about as well as it has all season, and it is coming at just the right time.
The Rainbows, who entered the Western Athletic Conference tournament as the No. 4 seed, now are in the driver's seat after a convincing 11-3 victory over top-seeded Fresno State at HoHoKam Park last night.
Hawai'i (32-25) can capture the championship today at 4:30 p.m. (Hawai'i time) with a victory over the winner of a 1 p.m. game between Fresno State and No. 6 San Jose State. If Hawai'i loses, it would get another shot at the title tomorrow at 9 a.m.
Sophomore right-hander Connor Little is expected to pitch for the Rainbows.
He hopes he can get the same type of run support. Hawai'i has scored 32 runs on 50 hits in three tournament games.
Second baseman Kolten Wong continued to make Arizona his home away from home. He hit his third home run of the tournament, a two-run shot in the second inning, and had a single in the seventh.
After going hitless in his first four at-bats of the tournament, he is 7 for his last 9.
"I am seeing the ball well at just the right time. There is no better time than now,'' said Wong, who hit two home runs in the tournament opener, including a walk-off that defeated Louisiana Tech, 8-7, in 10 innings.
Can hitting be contagious?
"I hope so,'' he said.
Hawai'i doesn't want to have any letdowns.
"We just need to go out and not think about it, just have fun like we have been, and we should be OK,'' Wong said.
Wong also was a part of the team's defensive effort behind starting and winning pitcher Matt Sisto. Hawai'i had four double plays, all to end innings, including the ninth, when left-handed reliever Blair Walters was on the mound.
Sisto, a right-hander, pitched seven solid innings, scattering seven hits, walking three and striking out four. The only blemish came in the sixth, when he surrendered a two-run homer to Fresno State slugger Jordan Ribera, his 27th of the season.
"Those double plays were great. We just kept turning them,'' said Sisto, who evened his record at 5-5.
He said he has had a roller-coaster season, but he was motivated for this important game.
"It was the semifinals and Fresno State,'' he said.
His change-up wasn't working very well, but he said he was able to stop Fresno State (36-24) with his fastball on the outer half of the plate.
Hawai'i first baseman Kevin Macdonald also provided an offensive boost with three hits, including a three-run double in the fifth inning.
"I was just trying to get the ball into the outfield, maybe a sacrifice fly or something,'' Macdonald said. "We have won three straight now (in the tournament) and getting the hits when we need them. We are swinging it. We need to keep it going.''
Hawai'i coach Mike Trapasso said the middle of the Fresno State lineup is scary, "so you have to keep scoring.
"This might have been our best game of the season. We played well in all three phases of the game.''