Ferd Lewis looks at UH base­ball coach’s coura­geous sched­ul­ing

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - FERD LEWIS

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.

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