Ferd Lewis looks at UH baseball coach’s courageous scheduling
This is Mike Trapasso’s 17th season as University of Hawaii baseball coach and, so far, there is no indication whether there will be an 18th.
Which makes what he did over the weekend fairly remarkable for someone in his position. Commendable even.
Trapasso took the Rainbow Warriors boldly into the Tigers’ den so to speak, Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., the home of a perennial Top 25 power, the Louisiana State Tigers.
LSU’s football stadium is known as “Death Valley” and “The Box” as the baseball stadium is called, isn’t a whole lot more hospitable to visitors calling on a program that was last year’s national runner-up.
The ’Bows, now 8-6, escaped with one victory from the three-game series, a 4-2 triumph in Friday’s opener — which is a lot better than most teams, especially mid-major opponents from afar. That fact should not be obscured by the 14-1 drubbing UH took in Sunday’s finale.
What the series does is serve as a reminder that Trapasso, with all that is riding on the outcome of this season, hasn’t gone into the fetal position in his scheduling, even when enlightened self-interest suggested it would be prudent.
The I-10 from Louis Armstrong International Airport to LSU will never be mistaken for the easy road taken, and the $15,000 guarantee to go to LSU, while decent as college baseball goes, was hardly a budget balancer.
While LSU is the marquee name on the schedule, the rest of the nonconference portion to this point hasn’t been jelly doughnuts, either. The respected site WarrenNolan. com ranked UH’s strength of schedule 105th among 297 Division I teams entering Monday.
Past opponents Brigham Young and
Loyola Marymount have top-100 Ratings Percentage Indexes, with only Air Force below. This week’s opponent, Illinois State (75), is 24th. A three-game series at Fresno State between conference dates looms.
Trapasso, from soon after he arrived in Manoa in 2002, has played a string of competitive schedules, furthering a tradition set by his predecessor, Les Murakami. Four times in the past six years UH’s schedule was rated among the top 100, often with Oregon as a regular feature.
And some of that is reflected in Trapasso’s
overall 462-451 record at UH. “As somebody told me when we decided to go to LSU, I’ve never been accused of being too smart,” Trapasso said.
So you could have understood and maybe even expected that he might water the schedule down like a taro patch this year after his contract was not rolled over. Especially since the Big West, a formidable conference in baseball, looms after the non-league portion and UH, which was projected to finish seventh in a preseason poll, has yet to have a winning record in league play in five previous seasons of membership.
The one-year extension athletic director David Matlin granted early last year is scheduled to expire Aug. 31, according to terms of the contract. UH confirmed Monday there was no agreement on anything past that at the moment.
So, Trapasso is left to make his case for an extension on the field and in the win column.
Maybe lessons learned from the LSU trip, including the fact that on their best day they could compete and even beat the Tigers, will stay with the Rainbow Warriors this season as they wade deeper into the schedule.
If the experience somehow came back to pay dividends in the long run, it would be fitting.