POMONA — There is something about Hawaii that seems to bring out the best in the Cal Poly Pomona baseball team.
The Broncos have visited Hawaii for games or tournaments in five seasons since 1976 and all five times they have reached the NCAA Division II World Series.
It happened in 1976, 1979, 1980, 1983 and it has happened again this year.
Cal Poly Pomona (36-27-1), ranked No. 2 in Division II in a recent national poll, will be one of the favorites when it competes in the six-team Division II World Series starting Saturday at Troy State in Montgomery, Ala.
To Face New Haven
The Broncos, who advanced to the World Series by defeating Sacramento State in three of five games in the NCAA West Regional last week in Pomona, face New Haven (26-4), the NCAA Northeast Regional winner, in their opener at 1 p.m. Saturday.
In other first-round games in the double-elimination championship series, top-ranked Florida Southern (50-10) meets Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (36-13-1) and Troy State (43-13) plays either Valdosta (Ga.) State (45-19) or Shippensburg (Pa.) State (35-13).
What is it about the Hawaii trips that helps Cal Poly Pomona?
"Hawaii does something to solidify the ball club," Coach John Scolinos said. "You're over there for about 10 days or so and the guys are rooming together and they're really pulling for each other."
One Win in Six Games
Pomona returned from Hawaii in March with only one victory in six games against Hawaii, Hawaii-Hilo and Brigham Young of Hawaii and was struggling with an overall record of 8-16-1.
But Scolinos said winning was not necessarily the most important aspect of the trip.
"We only won one ball game over there (in Hawaii) and we probably could have won three with any luck," Scolinos said. "But it's the other things that we benefit from when we go there. We really solidified as a ball club when we went there."
"We got to visit some of the sites, like the USS Arizona and the Punch Bowl and the big volcano near Hilo, and we got to do all those things as a team. Everybody got a chance to know each other on more of a one-to-one basis and we had a good time doing it."
Scolinos said the Broncos have shown noticeable improvement, both in skill and in attitude, since returning from Hawaii, and it has been visible in the win-loss column.
Good Conference Record
Cal Poly Pomona has had a 28-9 record since then and rolled to the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. title, finishing with a 23-7 conference record that included an 11-2 mark in one-run games.
After winning the conference title by three games over second-place Cal State Dominguez Hills, the Broncos outlasted Sacramento State in a wild five-game playoff series last week in Pomona that was dominated by offense. Pomona won the fifth and deciding game, 9-7.
"You had to see it to believe it," Scolinos said of the games against Sacramento State. "It was incredible . . . unbelievable. They (Sacramento) just kept scoring and we just kept battling back."
Cal Poly Pomona, which has a .311 team batting average, produced 43 runs and 61 hits in the series. The hitting leader was sophomore first baseman Tom Weeks, who got 14 hits in 21 at bats--including eight doubles and one home run--and was named the outstanding player in the regional.
Said Scolinos of Weeks: "He's an outstanding hitter and he has really improved on defense. He made some great defensive plays against Sacramento State and he's a legitimate major league prospect."
Near NCAA Record
For the season, Weeks leads the Broncos with 26 doubles and 55 runs batted in. He is batting .366 with eight home runs. His doubles total is just two short of the NCAA College Division record.
Other leaders in the Bronco offense include second baseman John Love, who is batting .410 with 12 homers and 47 RBIs, and outfielder Skylar Faria, who is hitting .385. Other Broncos batting over .300 are shortstop Tom Scaletta (.326), outfielder Mike Patterson (.324) and designated hitter David Schuster (.305).
Cal Poly Pomona's pitching leaders are Mike Munoz, a sophomore from Bishop Amat High in La Puente who has a 15-6 record and 3.22 earned-run average, and reliever Darren Gonzales, who is 5-2 with a 3.48 ERA and four saves.
The Broncos, who won the Division II title in 1976, 1980 and 1983, are expected to battle Florida Southern for the championship. But Scolinos said he is not looking past the team's first-round game against New Haven, the school that Pomona defeated to win the 1980 Division II championship.
"With the final six teams, you know they're all going to be competitive," he said. "There are no pushovers in this group."