'Bows open four-game series with West Virginia on Thursday

'Bows open four-game series with West Virginia on Thursday

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawai'i Rainbow Warrior baseball team opens a month-long, 18-game home stand this week at Les Murakami Stadium in a first-ever series with West Virginia. Fresh off a series victory in Northern California, the Rainbow Warriors will take on the Mountaineers Thursday through Sunday, March 3-6.

The Rainbow Warriors meet the Mountaineers for the first time in program history and are returning from a 2-1 series victory over San Francisco in Moraga, Calif.—a series that saw the UH bats come alive for a stout .351 hitting average, racking up 24 runs over the three-game set.

Despite finishing 27-27 (9-13 Big 12) last season, the Mountaineers look like a wholly different team in the early days of the 2016 campaign. After dropping their opener at Charleston Southern, WVU came back for the series win and then traveled west, sweeping UNLV by scores of 9-3, 13-1 and 9-4. On top of that, WVU faced the Arizona Diamondbacks in a 7-4 exhibition loss and made their way to Honolulu on Tuesday.

So far, WVU is swinging a big bat, hitting .306 as a team, scoring 42 runs through just six games, including 10 home runs. Leading the charge is senior outfielder KC Huth, who tops the team with a .421 average, seven RBI and seven runs, aided by a pair of home runs. Shortstop Jimmy Galusky made the most of his 2015 redshirt, hitting .391 so far with a team-best three doubles, logging four RBI and four runs. Meanwhile catcher Ray Guerrini is hitting .333 with a pair of doubles and a triple, registering four RBI and five runs. The Mountaineers will also challenge the 'Bows with aggressive base running, already logging 8-of-12 successful steals.

The 'Bows will face off against the toughest pitching staff they've seen in the early season, strike throwers all for WVU. Likely up first, junior right-hander Chad Donato holds a 4.15 ERA and 0-1 record, but has struck out 15 with no walks through two games. Up next, senior left-hander Ross Vance is out to a 2-0 start with a 0.75 ERA, striking out nine with two walks and holding opponents to .175 hitting. Closing out the starters so far, righty sophomore BJ Myers has recorded 15 innings in two starts, holding a 2-0 record and 0.00 ERA, also striking out nine and walking two, with opponents hitting only .170 off him. At this point in the season, WVU has not used a fourth starter.

For the 'Bows, senior shortstop Jacob Sheldon-Collins continues on his hitting spree, leading the team with a .410 average, collecting three doubles, seven RBI and six runs. While he ran into some error trouble at San Francisco, the weekend was a defensive anomaly in the career of the sure-gloved Australian. The biggest surprise of the early season has been the hitting of freshman catcher Kekai Rios, who assumed his starting role after the injury to Chayce Ka'aua. Covering his first full series vs. USF, Rios hit 7-for-13 (.538), tallying four RBI and five runs—on the year, he is hitting .409 and leads the team with a .480 on-base percentage. Sophomore first baseman Eric Ramirez also came through in the clutch in California, and is hitting .308 with a team-high nine RBI and three runs of his own. After only nine games, UH already has logged 18 doubles. The 'Bows have also put up two triples and a pair of home runs—all attributed to senior center fielder Matt LoCoco.

It has been a challenging early season for the pitching staff, but the starters have held their own and provided solid extended starts. After three games, junior right-hander Brendan Hornung is 1-2 with a 2.95 ERA, leading UH with 13 strikeouts. Senior righty Kyle Von Ruden leads with 19.1 innings through three outings, holding a 1-0 record and 3.72 ERA, striking out seven. Lefty senior Alex Hatch has a deceptive 0-0 record and 6.35 ERA, fresh off a 6.1-inning stretch vs. USF, allowing two earned runs and striking out five. The fourth starter is still under determination.

Hawaii Athletics Release