For the third straight season, Oregon will starts its quest for the College World Series in Honolulu to square off with the Hawai’i Rainbows.
Last season the Ducks won three of the four games of the series, with its only loss coming on Hawaii’s opening night at Les Murakami Stadium. Oregon went on to have its best season in program history, winning 46 games, and advancing to within one game of the College World Series. The Rainbows finished with a 30-25 record, finishing fourth in the WAC.
This season is a little different, as the Rainbows have moved to the Big West Conference. In any other sport, this would likely be considered a move down a notch, but with perennial powerhouses Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine, and Long Beach State also in the conference, Hawai’i will need some time to adjust; the ‘Bows are ranked sixth in the Big West preseason poll.
If Hawai’i wants to contend in their new conference, they’ll need to lean on their accomplished middle infield led by all-WAC shortstop Pi’ikea Kitamura, and second baseman Stephen Ventimilia. Kitamura hit for a .311 average, while Ventimilia hit .293 in 2012, while accounting for roughly 30% of their team’s runs. While two top spots on the lineup seem to be filled, Hawai’i will need to replace Collin Bennett, who led the team in batting average, triples, runs, slugging percentage, and runs batted in last season.
The Rainbow ace Scott Squier will get the opening day start opposite Oregon’s Jake Reed. Both starters are sophomores, and received plenty of honors for their debut seasons. Squier was named to both Baseball America and Perfect Game’s top prospects lists over the offseason, while Reed received Freshman All-America honors in 2012. Squier appeared in 15 games last season, posting a 3.50 ERA and a 3-4 record.
Les Murakami Stadium has traditionally been a very difficult place to play. Not only do visitors have to avoid the island’s distractions, they have to deal with a hostile, passionate fan base. If Oregon can stay focused, and find a way to get their offense rolling early on, the Ducks should have no problems winning their opening series.
First pitch is scheduled for Feb. 15 at 8:35pm PST.
Schedule and Probable Starters:
Feb.15, 8:35 p.m.
UH: LHP Scott Squier. Oregon: RHP Jake Reed.
Feb.16, 8:35 p.m.
UH: LHP Quintin Torres-Costa. Oregon: LHP Tommy Thorpe.
Feb.17, 3:05 p.m.
UH: RHP Connor Little. Oregon: LHP Cole Irvin.
Feb.18, 3:05 p.m.
UH: RHP Corey MacDonald. Oregon: RHP Jeff Gold.