After a 1-6 road trip that saw Hawaii fall to sixth place in the Big West Conference, the Rainbow Warriors are shaking up the starting rotation this week against Long Beach State.
Senior Kyle Von Ruden will take the mound Friday night in the series opener against the Dirtbags, marking the first time UH will open a series with a pitcher other than Brendan Hornung.
Hornung (3-7, 3.23 ERA) will start the series finale on Sunday with left-hander Alex Hatch going on Saturday.
Hornung had pitched at least 6 2/3 innings in six of his first eight starts but hasn’t thrown in the seventh inning of a game since April 1 against UC Irvine.
Hornung was able to battle through six-inning starts against Cal Poly and Cal State Northridge allowing two runs or less but never had his best stuff. It caught up to him last week against UC Santa Barbara when he had his worst outing of the season, giving up eight runs on seven hits in a loss to the Gauchos.
Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said he wanted to give Hornung an extra bullpen session before throwing him out there again. His issues have become mechanical but begin with his mind-set.
“He gets too competitive and when he gets too competitive he overthrows and when he overthrows he gets out of sync mechanically,” Trapasso said. “He needs to settle down and just focus on pitching instead of competing which is hard to do. It takes a lot of maturity and he’s a mature kid and being competitive is a good thing but some times it can get you in a little trouble pitching.”
Von Ruden, who is 5-1 with a 3.01 ERA, has also slowed down over his last three starts after going at least seven innings in seven straight outings. He has thrown two nine-inning complete games but since tossing a three-hit shutout at UC Davis has given up 10 earned runs in his last three starts covering 16 innings.
Hawaii (18-23, 7-8 Big West) has lost eight of its last nine and it doesn’t get any easier against the Dirtbags (26-17, 9-6), who are projected to make a regional.
>>> Wednesday, catcher Kekai Rios was named to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List presented to the nation’s top catcher. Rios, a freshman from Kamehameha, is currently tied for sixth in the Big West with a .342 batting average and gave Hawaii its last win with a home run in the 10th inning to beat CSUN.
Rios has also thrown out 17 base stealers this season and was moved into the cleanup spot in the lineup for the first time last weekend against UCSB.
Semifinalists for the award will be announced on May 18.