There were more positives to take from the UH baseball team's opening night game Friday than you might expect from a 3-0 loss.
First of all, what a great crowd. It was truly standing-room only as Jerry Campany and I wandered around the concourse looking for a good vantage point.
I noticed some good:
>> Some solid hitting, just not enough falling in at the right times. The Rainbows had just five hits, but connected fairly well against tough pitching. Newcomers not intimidated; four of those hits were by first-time UH players.
>> Consistent defense. Nothing that spectacular, but errorless ball. Nice play by first baseman Marc Flores on a slow grounder to get a force at home.
>> Good effort by Lawrence Chew with 2 1/3 innings of hitless relief and keep Hawaii in the game.
Now the negatives:
>> Scott Squier appeared to have good stuff, and the first time through the lineup he got the first pitch in for a strike. But he still got too deep into counts and a bases-loaded walk gave Oregon the only run it needed, and Squier ended up having to leave the game earlier (after 4 2/3 innings) than you'd like from your series-opening starter.
>> Lack of clutch hitting. Now, this is really hard to quantify in one game, especially because UH didn't necessarily have terrible plate appearances with runners on ... they hit balls sharply, but into double plays and Oregon's defense was extremely sharp. But any time you get shut out it is obviously not good.
>> Not necessarily a negative for UH, but a positive for Oregon; the edge that UH used to have against powerhouse programs in small ball may be dissipating. The big programs have had time now to adjust to the change in the bats and focus on executing things like bunts, hit and run, and other ways to manufacture runs ... as well as to prevent the opponents from doing so. Since this was Hawaii's style before the changes anyway, the Rainbows previously had an advantage in this area. From the way Oregon executed last night, it looks like that part of the game may be evened out now, thus dissipating the pitcher's park advantage to some degree.
I probably won't use space in the paper to write another column on the UH team nickname change again, at least for a while. But there's plenty of room in cyberspace so we can fill some of it with more commentary on what might be a done issue, but remains an emotional one for many fans. Here's a letter from one of them:
I agree with your comments in yesterday's column. Not the best solution/decision but one that was needed. The long list of the various team names was a joke that circulated around town a number of years ago and nobody had the political courage to do anything about it.
I am still angry about June Jones' power play when he launched the "H" and changed the name. FYI, Bachman hall did not have a clue about what was going on until the community relations office was asked for help in launching the new look one or two days before the scheduled event. The "H" had already been painted on the floor of The Stan Sheriff Center.
The unanimous feeling among my "seatmates" in Les Murakami Stadium last night was that the baseball team will always be "Rainbows." The only thing that has changed is the absence of the "Rainbow Lady" cheer leader, Her spirit lives on , however.