One of the big early-season storylines for the Hawaii baseball team will be how fast its newcomers can get accustomed to playing against top Division-I talent.
Four-year seniors Kaeo Aliviado and Stephen Ventimilia showed in the alumni game they are capable of carrying the load offensively in the early going.
Ventimilia showed some pop from the leadoff spot with five hits, including a double and a triple, and Aliviado jacked a two-run homer as one of his three hits in a 10-0 win over the alumni.
UH’s starting lineup, which should be similar to the one head coach Mike Trapasso trots out there on opening night next Friday against Oregon, saw Ventimilia in his customary leadoff spot with Aliviado again hitting third. Shortstop Jacob Sheldon-Collins hit in the two-hole with third baseman Alex Sawelson handling the cleanup duties.
The rest of the order went like this: Alan Baldwin (LF), Eric Ramirez (1B), Jordan Richartz (DH), Chayce Ka’aua (C), Matt LoCoco (RF).
If you noticed someone missing, sophomore Marcus Doi was held out of the game for precautionary reasons. He’s still struggling with a groin injury he had surgery on last November and the coaching staff is being extra careful with him. I’d expect to see him starting at DH, probably in the cleanup spot, come Friday. Word is he’s been on an absolute tear the last 10 days in practice.
The other guy you could see sneak into the starting lineup in one of the corner outfield spots is freshman Jonathan Weeks.
Junior Tyler Brashears looked good in his first Les Murakami Stadium outing with fans in the stands. Brashears sat comfortably at 90-91 miles per hour with his fastball over seven innings and allowed only two hits and one walk with five strikeouts. Staying in rhythm in alumni games can be tough, especially with long innings where you find yourself sitting in the dugout for 15-20 minutes at a time, but Brashears never seemed to get out of rhythm even once and mixed in five different pitches for strikes.
It was good to see another solid turnout from the alumni side. Breland Almadova said he expects to open the season with the Mobile BayBears in Double-A ball for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Kolten Wong made a surprise appearance about an hour before the game and threw out the first pitch before leaving during the game. Scott Kuzminsky threw four innings for the alumni team and heads back to Washington next Sunday before starting up independent ball in May. Matt Cooper said he’s still waiting to hear on when he will report.
Fortunately for KHON2 weekend sports anchor Sam Spangler, he won’t be working the anchor desk until Friday, giving him plenty of time to rest his left arm. Spangler started and threw 2 2/3 innings for the alumni team before waving to the dugout with his cap to signal he was done.
Spangler pitched two years in the minor leagues for the Minnesota Twins’ organization before calling it quits in 2011. One of the game’s funnier moments came when he was up 0-2 on Aliviado to start the bottom of the third and shook off the sign from catcher Kevin Fujii, opting to try and blow a fastball past Aliviado instead. His 75-MPH heater ended up on a rope to right field for a base hit.
It’s always fun to see the alumni come back and get out there one more time to play. For the UH team, however, it’s all business now. Oregon is on deck in six short days. The 2015 season is just about here.