After watching his team play its “worst game of the season” in his words, Hawaii baseball coach Mike Trapasso made it abundantly clear after Friday’s 8-4 loss to CSU Bakersfield that other pitchers are going to get an opportunity to throw more.
“I’m not going to keep sending the same guys out there that are not throwing strikes,” Trapasso said after the ‘Bows allowed four runs — the margin of loss — to batters who either walked or were hit by a pitch. “Right now it’s the definition of insanity and I feel like I’m going insane right now watching us go out there walking six guys a game.”
Trapasso didn’t have to look long to find a potential candidate who could end up playing a vital role this season — especially when Big West play rolls around.
Carter Loewen, a 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore right-hander, made just the third appearance of his UH career and pounded the strike zone in 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Roadrunners. He allowed a leadoff single in the sixth that turned out to be the only hard-hit ball he gave up. The only other hit he allowed came on a bunt and he retired the final six batters he faced with only one ball making it to the outfield.
“It kind of was a low-pressure situation and I’m grateful for any opportunity coach Trap gives me,” Loewen said.
There’s that word again — opportunity — and for Loewen, it’s been a long time coming.
Three years ago, the Canada native had stopped paying attention to the MLB draft with only a couple of rounds remaining. In the 40th and final round, his name was called as the final draft pick from the only Canadian team in Major League Baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays.
It might have tugged at him a little to give professional baseball a shot. The opportunity to play for his own country’s only pro team? Who wouldn’t want that?
But Loewen had his mind made up pretty soon after he was drafted that he still wanted to go the college route.
“I’m kind of leaning toward Hawaii and going through the college experience,” Loewen said that day in an interview with the Star-Advertiser. “Hopefully I can build up my draft stock.”
And why wouldn’t he? He had the size that college coaches drool over and his control was pretty good. As a junior, he walked just 11 in 67 innings for the Abbotsford Cardinals Premier Baseball Club and was a member of the Canadian junior national team that summer.
That makes the fact that Friday was just his third appearance in a UH uniform even more baffling. But to understand Loewen’s excitement just to be on the mound under the lights at Les Murakami Stadium, you have to know the hardships he’s had to endure.
Loewen never got to throw his first year in the islands. He had reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder, admitting basically that “they pretty much had to put my whole shoulder back together.”
He went three months without even touching a baseball and then it was nearly a year after the surgery before he threw off the mound the first time.
He made one appearance last year and failed to record an out against six batters he faced, but that was almost secondary to just being out there on the mound.
“Every day I get to throw I’m grateful to throw,” Loewen said.
Preparing for his third year with the club, Loewen could begin to have more expectations. Physically, he was rounding into form, but it was in his head where he had the most work to do.
“The mental game is something I really struggled with in the fall and it’s something I’ve really worked on getting better at,” he said.
It took 10 games before Loewen finally got back on the mound with the ‘Bows up big against Longwood. He walked the first batter he faced — and still hadn’t record an out in college — before coming back to strike out the side to close out a 9-1 win.
He waited eight more games before getting his second opportunity. This time, he pounded the zone, kept the ball down, and gave his head coach something to think about moving forward.
“Carter Loewen wants it more than anybody and he continues to get better and continues to work on it,” Trapasso said. “He’s a work in progress but he’s deserving of a chance and made the most of it today. We’ll see him get more innings.”
That was all Loewen hoped to hear.
“Ever since I got that first taste (of pitching) against Longwood, I’ve just wanted to go out there and do it again and again and again and I had a blast. It’s so much fun pitching out there,” Loewen said. “I just want to help us win whether that’s coming in in the fourth inning, the eighth inning or the ninth inning. I just want to do the best job I can to give our team the best chance to win.”