Hawai'i seven add punch to Boxer baseball
By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer
Pacific University was picked to finish sixth among nine baseball teams in the Northwest Conference in the preseason coaches' poll.
Instead, with two weekends left in the season, the Boxers are in first place in the conference and have set a school season record for victories with a 22-9 overall record.
Pacific, located in Forest Grove, Ore., 26 miles west of Portland, has seven players from Hawai'i on its baseball team. Five have started this season.
Pacific's most effective starting pitcher and its long reliever are both from 'Aiea High senior starter Kyle Ishimitsu and junior reliever Derek Akimoto. It also has an all-conference center fielder from 'Aiea, senior Shaun Ebesutani, who graduated from Mid-Pacific, and a starting third baseman from Kula and Maui High, sophomore Kyle Shimizu.
Junior Isaac Goya of Hilo High has been a spot starter in left field or at designated hitter.
Ishimitsu "sets the tone for the whole team," says coach Greg Bradley. "He doesn't rely on velocity, he analyzes the hitters. He understands what it takes to be successful. His maturity as a pitcher over four years has been exciting to see." Ishimitsu is a co-captain.
Analysis and maturity have led to a 5-0 record in seven starts for Ishimitsu, who was chosen conference Co-Pitcher of the Week April 8. He has a 5.18 earned run average and 29 strikeouts in 41á innings, most on the staff.
"I don't throw hard," says Ishimitsu. "I let them get themselves out."
Akimoto has the most velocity on the staff. His record is 5-1 in 11 games (eight in relief) and 39 innings. His ERA of 3.69 ranks fifth in the conference. Opponents hit .232 against him.
Ebesutani, a fifth-year senior, has overcome a variety of injuries to raise his batting average to .292 (21-for-72) and has made one error in 22 games. He hit .355 last year.
Shimizu got back in the lineup last weekend after missing eight games with a stress fracture in his right foot. He is batting .267 (20-for-75). Bradley says Shimizu also is an excellent defensive catcher.
Goya is hitting .231 (9-for-39) in 18 games.
Also on the Pacific roster from Hawai'i are junior pitcher Kyle Oroku, a Leilehua grad from Mililani, and junior second baseman Bryce Yamamoto, an Iolani grad from Kane'ohe whom Bradley calls "the consummate team player."
"We're learning how to win," says Ishimitsu. "We've made a lot of eighth- and ninth-inning comebacks in crucial games."
With four or five wins in their last six games, the Boxers could bring Pacific its first conference championship since 1979.
"It makes it fun to win," says Ishimitsu. "I get up every day and want to play baseball."
All-state outfielder Jimmy Strombach of Moanalua yesterday signed a scholarship agreement and national letter of intent to play with the Hornets.
Strombach batted .408 with five home runs and 16 RBIs last year.
He also was a second-team all-state wide receiver in football and will be allowed to try both sports at Sacramento State if he wants, according to Doris Sullivan of Hawai'i Sports Network, who shepherded Strombach through the recruiting maze.