(Hawaii Athletics) - After an 11-game homestand that places the Rainbow Warriors in a tie for second among Big West teams, the University of Hawai'i baseball team (7-4) takes to the road for the first time, heading to Baton Rouge, La. for its toughest test of the early season, the No. 13 LSU Tigers (8-4). The Rainbow Warriors will square off with the 2017 College World Series Runner-up Tigers in a three-game series, Friday-Sunday (March 9-11) at Alex Box Stadium.
This weekend's matchup will be an effective measuring stick for both programs, both ranking highly in the national statistics standings. The Rainbow Warriors hold the nation's fourth-best team ERA at 1.74, also ranking top 20 in the NCAA in WHIP (1.07) and hits allowed per game (6.43). The UH starting rotation has a combined ERA of 1.42 and allowed just a single run last weekend against Loyola Marymount, capped off by sophomore Logan Pouelsen's four-hit, complete game shutout.
In converse, the Tigers rank in the top 60 nationally in most offensive categories, highlighted by a 29th-best .307 batting average, 36th-best slugging percentage (.476) and 34th-most home runs (12). With six starters logging a slugging percentage over .500, LSU has racked up 41 extra base hits through the first 12 games. Leading the charge without many extras is junior infielder Brandt Broussard, who hits .432 with 11 RBI and 6 runs – also stealing a team-high six bases. Senior outfielder Beau Jordan bats .407 with a team-high 14 runs and six RBI, helping the Tigers with four doubles, a triple and three home runs.
On the mound, the Tigers hold a 5.13 staff ERA and have allowed 5.3 runs and 9.0 hits per game.
On the bump for Hawai'i, the first two starting spots are locked up, as junior right-hander Jackson Rees is coming off a 7.1-inning three-hitter versus LMU in which he no-hit the Lions through six innings and collected a career-high eight strikeouts. Rees enters the weekend with an 0.93 ERA and a team-high 19 strikeouts. Coming up Saturday will be junior left-hander Dominic DeMiero, who has a 1.89 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 19 innings. The third position will be harder to determine, picking between the seasoned starter and the rising newcomer; right-handers Neil Uskali and Pouelsen. Both have two wins under their belts. Uskali has a 2.55 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 17.2 innings, boasting 18 career starts. Meanwhile, the upstart, Pouelsen is the reigning Big West Pitcher of the Week, coming in with an NCAA 54-best 0.60 ERA, nine strikeouts in 15 innings and a starting staff-low .137 average against.
Not to mention the experienced closer in sophomore Dylan Thomas, who ranks sixth nationally with 4-of-5 successful save opportunities this season, working with a 2.70 ERA and six strikeouts in 6.2 innings.
At the plate, the 'Bows will look to sophomore right fielder Adam Fogel, who comes in with a .351 average. He's collected extra bases on 9-of-13 hits, including an NCAA 20th-most six doubles, two homers and a triple, accounting for team highs of eight RBI and eight runs. Junior third baseman Ethan Lopez also brings an energy and a spark for UH, batting .317 with three doubles, four runs and four RBI. The Rainbow Warriors are looking to get back on track at the plate after a stifling couple of offensive series that leave UH with a .244 team average.
The Tigers and Rainbow Warriors meet for the first time in these programs' history. It's also the first UH meeting with a Southeastern Conference (SEC) foe since the Warriors claimed a 3-1 series win over Mississippi State in 2009, and the 'Bows have never traveled to an SEC opponent. Overall, Hawai'i enters the weekend with a 36-19 record against current SEC schools in its first trip to Louisiana since last UH's last road meeting with Louisiana Tech in 2010.
After squaring off with the Tigers, the Rainbow Warriors will return home to kick off an eight-game homestand, starting with a four-game set against Illinois State that runs March 15-17 at Les Murakami Stadium.