By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawaii Pacific baseball is taking on a new dimension this season. But it has nothing to do with the composition of its team.
The Sea Warriors open their NCAA Division II season tomorrow with a doubleheader against Sonoma State of Rohnert Park, Calif. The first of two seven-inning games is at 4 p.m. at reconfigured Hans LOrange Park in Waipahu. The series continues with 4 p.m. doubleheaders Friday, Saturday and Monday.
The left field fence at Hans LOrange has been pushed back. Once a mere 278 feet down the foul line, it will now be 325 feet from the plate. The rest of the dimensions 351 to the left-center alley, 400 to center, 385 to right-center and 325 to right remain the same. Also, instead of a 40-foot high barrier in left, the fence will be the same height as the rest of the park at about 10 feet.
The extra 47 feet down the left- field line might be needed for the Sea Warriors pitching staff, the question mark on this years team.
"Well hit and score runs," said Allan Sato, HPUs sixth-year coach. "If our pitching holds up, we should be where we want to be."
The Sea Warriors, 16-17 last year, hope to regain their 1999 form when they finished 32-12. They compete as an independent.
Despite losing power sources in right fielder Scott Suraci (.427, 33 RBIs) and catcher Gabe Gerhardt (.385, 6 home runs, 33 RBIs), Sato said his team should hit, if not for power, at least for a high average. Suraci signed with the Minnesota Twins last year after being selected in the 40th round.
The Sea Warriors return six position starters, including the first three hitters in the batting order: shortstop Bryce Uegawachi (.368), third baseman Ryan Blood (.367) and designated hitter/utility fielder Wade Taguchi (.315).
Also back are first baseman Jeremiah Yacap (.363), catcher Tyrus Matsumoto (.344) and left fielder Tom Peters (.321).
Returning after a year off is right fielder Daric Stith, who batted .319 in 1999.
Newcomers to watch are center fielder Corey Hanson and catcher Brandon Critchley. Both are junior college transfers from Utah. Stith, Hanson and Critchley could develop into pro prospects, Sato said.
Uegawachi, Peters, Taguchi and Hanson are base-stealing threats. "Anytime you have four legit guys who can take a base, thats an advantage," Sato said.
Because of the unusual four doubleheader setup, the Sea Warriors are swarming with starting pitchers. Freshman Matt Zachary and returnee Kelton Otsuka are set to pitch tomorrows doubleheader with freshmen Kai Austin and Peter Sonier pitching Friday and senior Keola McCallum and Mike Moon Saturday. HPU will use a "committee" of pitchers for Mondays doubleheader.
Palani Nunes returns as the teams closer.
After Mondays doubleheader, the Sea Warriors dont play again for another month, against George Fox of Oregon.
Also on HPUs schedule is the University of Hawaii Rainbow Easter Tournament, March 26 to April 1. Then, the Sea Warriors play seven games over a six-day span in California before closing out the season at UH-Hilo on April 22.
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