HONOLULU – The University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warrior baseball team announced its 2017 schedule on Monday, Oct. 3. The slate features six teams that appeared in last year’s NCAA tournament and provides 35 games at Les Murakami Stadium.
Coming off a second consecutive 12-12 finish in league play, the 2016 Rainbow Warriors (23-30) climbed to their highest finish since joining the Big West, tying for fourth place in the annually prominent league – the conference produced three NCAA tournament teams a year ago.
Holding up to expectations for the UH schedule, the Rainbow Warriors will again take on household names, bringing No. 13 NC State, San Francisco, Indiana, Nevada, San Jose State and Sacred Heart to Honolulu. In addition, the Big West Conference slate serves as a key challenge as UH looks to return to the NCAA tournament, highlighted by matchups with tournament teams Long Beach State, No. 29 Cal State Fullerton and No. 7 UC Santa Barbara – with the Gauchos fresh off their first trip to the College World Series.
“We want to challenge ourselves every year with the strongest possible schedule,” 16th-year head coach Mike Trapasso said. “The Big West Conference is one of the premier baseball leagues in the NCAA, with three different teams going to the College World Series over the past three years. This is not a schedule for the faint of heart, with 10 teams reaching the NCAA postseason the past two years.”
Retaining eight of their top 10 hitters from last year and breaking in the nation’s 37th-ranked recruiting class, the ’Bows will play 51 games overall, 35 in the friendly confines of Les Murakami Stadium, where they ranked 19th in the nation in attendance last season and again were first in the west region, boastin an outstanding group of 3,021 UH fans on average per game.
Rainbow Warrior baseball action kicks off Feb. 17-19, when UH welcomes the NC State Wolfpack for the home opener. This will mark the first meeting between the programs. NCSU earned a No. 1 seed and hosted a 2016 NCAA Regional in Raleigh, but were eliminated by eventual CWS Champion Coastal Carolina. The Wolfpack appeared in the CWS in 2013.
Returning a series from last year, the San Francisco Dons will come to UH, Feb. 23-26. In the 2016 neutral-site meeting, UH pulled out the 2-1 series victory over USF, extending its lead in the tight series.
Next the Rainbow Warriors will travel nearly 4,000 miles to the upper Midwest and U.S. Bank Stadium, the home of the Minnesota Vikings, competing in the 33rd Annual Dairy Queen Classic (DQC). UH opens the week meeting 2016 Big Ten Regular Season Champion Minnesota, which lost in the College Station, Texas NCAA Regional Final to Texas A&M. Over the subsequent three days at the DQC, UH will take on Iowa, Minnesota and a first-ever meeting with Oral Roberts. The UI Hawkeyes missed the NCAA’s after falling in the Big Ten Tournament Final. ORU earned its place in the NCAA Fort Worth Regional as champions of the Summit League.
On the return trip, UH closes out its non-conference schedule with a 16-game home stand across a four-week stretch at Murakami Stadium, beginning with Sacred Heart (March 9-12), the Northeast Conference (NEC) runner-up last year. Marking the third Big Ten foe of the year, Indiana comes to town March 15-18.
Opposition from the Mountain West Conference follows with San Jose State from March 23-26 and Nevada from March 30-April 2. Although Nevada missed the tournament last year, the Wolf Pack are one year removed from a MW Championship.
The Big West stretch begins with a two-week road slate, beginning in San Luis Obispo with Cal Poly (April 7-9), followed by a trip to UC Riverside (April 13-15). The Rainbow Warriors return home to meet UC Davis (April 21-23), but head right back out to CSUN (April 28-30) to close out the month.
As is often the case, the month of May is the toughest stretch, beginning with last year’s BWC Champion Cal State Fullerton (May 5-7), looking to avenge UH’s series in Fullerton. The Titans finished their season in the NCAA Starkville Regional. After a down season ranking eighth in the conference, UC Irvine is a perennially tough foe, and UH will meet the Anteaters from May 12-15 at home. League runner-up Long Beach State advanced to the Coral Gables NCAA Regional Final and will host UH on May 19-21.
The Rainbow Warriors will close out the season on Senior Weekend with UC Santa Barbara (May 25-27). The Gauchos finished last season with a No. 7 ranking and made it to the program’s first College World Series after emerging from the Nashville Regional on a victory over 2015 NCAA runner-up Vanderbilt.
The 2017 UH Alumni Game is slated for Saturday, Feb. 11 at 1:00 p.m. at Les Murakami Stadium.