With 22 days remaining until the season opener, the University of Hawaii baseball team is still taking shape as it prepares for the final season under Les Murakamis regime.
Murakami, who is in rehabilitation after suffering a stroke on Nov. 2, announced this would be his last season, which would be his 31st.
Pitching coach Carl Furutani is serving as interim coach.
The Rainbows, who resume practice Monday, open the season against Sacramento State on Jan. 25 at Rainbow Stadium. The annual alumni game is scheduled for noon, Jan. 20.
The Rainbows were 28-28 last year, only the third time since 1975 that they did not finish over .500. In the six-team Western Athletic Conference, the Rainbows finished fourth at 15-15.
The conference schedule will increase to 36 games this season, with the addition of Nevada to the WAC. The other conference members are Fresno State, San Jose State, Rice, Texas Christian and Hawaii-Hilo. The Vulcans,
an affiliate member, will play their final season in the WAC, as they were not retained. Louisiana Tech will join the conference for the 2002 season.
All three of last years regular starting pitchers - Rich Snider, Randon Ho and Jamie Aloy - have completed their eligibility and are no longer with the Rainbows. They accounted for 47 of 56 starts. Furutani said he has an idea of who will be the starting pitchers, but would not comment on them yet. He does not expect the starters to pitch longer than four innings at the outset; their progression toward longer outings will be determined from series-to-series, he said.
Senior Gavin Garrick and sophomore Chad Giannetti made five and three starts, respectively, last year. Junior Grant Sato had one start.
Freshman left-hander Ikaika Faraon, who missed most of his senior year at Molokai High because of a knee injury, is likely to redshirt, Furutani said. Faraon was limited to pitching only three innings during the Maui Interscholastic League season because of the knee injury, but was in top form for the state tournament, pitching the maximum 13 innings and winning all three games for the Farmers.
Shortstop was left vacated with the graduation of Rory Pico. Although Patrick Scalabrini and Lane Nogawa played the position at times last season, neither is a true shortstop. Scalabrini ended up as the regular third baseman. Freshman Cortland Wilson, an all-star at Skyline High in Utah, is expected to fill the void.
"Were very excited about him," Furutani said. "Hes a true shortstop."
The outfield has some questions. Left fielder Scooter Martines had shoulder surgery during the summer, but wasnt cleared to practice until near the end of fall workouts. He had a team-leading 46 RBIs in 1999, but the nagging shoulder caused him to miss 18 games and dropped his RBI total to 17.
Also, center fielder Nate Jackson, a defensive back on the UH football team, indicated he was not sure if he would play this season because of a foot injury. Furutani said Jackson must decide if he wants to sit out for surgery or rest.
Furutani, who has been conducting workouts, said there are subtle changes from the way Murakami ran practices. He said the coaches are doing more "one-on-one things" with the players.
"Only Les can do certain things and get certain results," Furutani said. "To me, nobody can replace Les Murakami, so we made some adjustments that fits us better."
Murakami transformed a club program in 1971 into a national power within a decade, taking the Rainbows to a second-place finish at the 1980 College World Series.
Furutani said he did not apply for the UH head coach position, which drew more than 70 applicants. He said he had no comment when asked why he did not apply.
Extra innings: Brendon Suga (Mililani 98), an outfielder with Laney College (Oakland, Calif.) signed with Fresno State for the 2002 season. Suga, an all-state honorable mention selection for Mililani High in 1998, batted .280 for Laney last year.... Nebraska pitcher Shane Komine (Kalani 98) is the only player with ties to Hawaii on Collegiate Baseball newspapers preseason All-America team. Komine was an All-American last season as a sophomore.