WEEK 1 WRAP: Hawaii Hilo

UH split its two-game series against Hawaii Hilo to start the 2016 season.
UH split its two-game series against Hawaii Hilo to start the 2016 season.

Hawaii Hilo coach Kallen Miyataki was clearly excited with the way his Vulcans battled Hawaii over the weekend.

Despite its Division II status and a lack of success in recent years, the Vulcans gave Hawaii everything it wanted and then some at Francis Wong Stadium, splitting two games to open the 2016 season.

For a UH program that took a small step forward last season with its 12-12 mark in the Big West, the two games provided more questions than answers as the ‘Bows prepare to open their Division I slate Friday hosting New Mexico.

The first glaring question is how will UH handle opposing power arms? Vulcans senior Jordan Kurokawa completely overwhelmed the UH lineup on Saturday night, allowing two hits in a complete-game effort. Alan Baldwin smacked a solid line drive into left field for the only legitimate hit. The other was a routine grounder to shortstop by Matt LoCoco, but because UH had Baldwin running on the pitch, Hawaii Hilo’s shortstop was out of position, allowing LoCoco to reach on an infield hit.

Hawaii did get a good at-bat from Marcus Doi with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. With a runner in scoring position, Doi scorched a liner, but it was right at third baseman Nate Green, who went high to make the grab and rob UH of a run and Doi of extra bases.

This isn’t taking away anything from Kurokawa, who was clocked at 88 to 93 MPH and established himself as a top pitching draft prospect in the state this year. But if the Rainbow Warriors struggled that much against him, how will they fare against the monsters of the Big West? Every team, from Cal State Fullerton all the way to UC Riverside and UC Davis, has starting pitchers that can get it up over 90 miles per hour. You can expect a few fireballers coming out of each bullpen as well.

Much has been made of Hawaii’s lack of power arms this season. Mike Trapasso has coined the phrase “pitch-ability” in describing his staff this season. Did the lack of facing a power arm all fall and spring contribute to UH’s struggles the first time out against an arm like that of Kurokawa’s? Whatever the case, Hawaii will need to adjust quickly, because it can expect to face quite a few pitchers with the same velocity that Kurokawa showed on Saturday. As Trapasso said, “you can’t give up one run and lose a college baseball game.”

The other big question to come out of the series is how deep really is this UH bullpen? We know they plan on using a lot of different guys this year, but how many capable arms do they have? Casey Ryan seems like the guy that is going to have to carry the load. He’s one of the few guys UH has that can get it up into the 90s and looked a lot better Saturday than he did in the alumni game. Newcomers Patrick Martin and Isaac Friesen were ineffective in their first time out and returnee Matt Valencia had a disappointing outing, bouncing a curve ball to the backstop on his first pitch to allow a run to score. Cody Culp came in and got the save, adding to the four he had last season, doing what he does. Culp is a strike-thrower and has shown he can get key outs when needed, but he’s also been prone to give up runs in bunches, as we saw against Pepperdine and New Mexico State last season.

An 8-1 lead against Hawaii Hilo turned into an 11-9 win and Trapasso has said from the beginning that he’s going to play matchups and situations early on to allow his guys to win establish roles. All of those roles are up for grabs to start the season. How long will it take for these relievers to win those jobs? Can Friesen and Martin improve from the first to second outing like Ryan did from the alumni game to Saturday? We saw what a difference Quintin Torres-Costa made the second half of last season when he locked down every UH lead late. It doesn’t look like there’s a Torres-Costa in this group, so for UH to nail down games late, it’s going to take more than one capable arm.

Hawaii (1-1) vs. New Mexico (0-0)
Friday-Monday, Les Murakami Stadium
UNM notes: Head coach Ray Burmingham expects his team to make a regional this season and a few publications have picked the Lobos to win the Mountain West. UNM is a dangerous club offensively returning most of its position players. It’s only real question is at catcher. Pitching wise, the Lobos lost their ace from last year to the MLB Draft, but have sophomore Tyler Stevens coming off a huge freshman season. New Mexico might not be the Oregon UH fans are used to seeing the first time out at Les Murakami Stadium, but this is a dangerous club that could easily find itself in a regional at the end of the season.


  1. airsumo February 16, 2016 4:09 am

    Excellent analysis. Enjoyed an honest appraisal of the “Bows. I think UH will have another losing season due to lack of “power” arms. Time to search for a new coach.

  2. H-Man February 16, 2016 7:36 am

    Yup, without pitching, the Bows will really struggle since they haven’t had a team with power hitting in years.

Comments are closed.