FRESNO STATE ---The sizzling Fresno State baseball team is heading to the desert with the single focus of defending its crown and bring home its sixth Western Athletic Conference Tournament title in the past seven years.
As the six-time defending WAC regular season or tournament champion, fifth-seeded Fresno State (25-25) opens postseason play on Wednesday at 3 p.m. against fourth-seeded Hawai'i (30-23) between the chalk in HoHoKam Stadium, the spring training home for the Chicago Cubs since 1979.
The Bulldogs and Rainbows met in both teams' conference opening series in Honolulu back on April 5-7 where UH won two of the three contests.
In the three-game set, the Bulldogs beat the Rainbows 5-3 on April 6 behind a strong pitching performance by junior Justin Haley, who tossed seven innings and fanned five to earn the win. Fresno State sophomore outfielder Aaron Judge ripped two of his 11 doubles this year in the series and added a pair of RBI.
The losses came in the Friday night opener by the score of 8-2 and a heartbreaking Sunday finale, which Fresno State dropped 3-2 in ten innings after taking the lead in the top of the tenth.
A month later, the Bulldogs found the perfect temperature to cook up a tasty stretch run and captured their final three WAC series in winning two out of three against top seed New Mexico State, second- seeded Sacramento State and sixth-seeded Louisiana Tech. NMSU, Sacramento State and No. 3 seed Nevada all finished conference play at 11-7 to share each school's first baseball regular season WAC championship.
But Fresno State is one of the hottest teams entering the tournament as winners in eight of the past 12 games while Hawai'i has lost seven of 12 during the same span and owns just a 4-11 record away from the Islands.
The history between the two programs will add some intrigue to the opener as the Rainbows are the only team to snatch the tournament championship and automatic NCAA bid away from the Bulldogs in the past six years.
This pairing is a rematch of the last two title games, with Fresno State winning last year's crown and Rainbows taking home the title in 2010 in the only two tournaments played at HoHoKam Stadium.
Also, this could be the final time the 'Dogs and Rainbows meet as conference foes with Fresno State moving to the Mountain West and Hawai'i shifts to the Big West next season.