Hilo has home-field advantage
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
|||2003 Hawai'i-Hilo Vulcans Schedule
*At Wong Stadium, Hilo; **At Kailua, Kona; (2) doubleheader
16Arizona State*, 6 p.m. 17Arizona State*, 6 p.m. 18Arizona State**(2), 11 a.m. 19Arizona State**(2), 11 a.m. 24Kansas* (2), 4 p.m. 25Kansas**(2), 11 a.m. 26Kansas**(2), 11 a.m. 31Santa Clara*(2), 1 p.m.
1Santa Clara**(2), 11 a.m. 2Santa Clara**, 11 a.m. 6Sonoma State*(2), 4 p.m. 7Sonoma State*(2), 4 p.m. 11at Hawai'i-Manoa, 6:30 p.m. 12Hawai'i Pacific at Hans L'Orange (2), 10 a.m. 15Wichita State**, 1:30 p.m. 16Wichita State**(2), 11 a.m. 17Wichita State**, 1:30 p.m. 18Wichita State**(2), 10 a.m. 19Wichita State**, 11 a.m. 22Hawai'i Pacific**(2), 11 a.m. 23Hawai'i Pacific**(2), 11 a.m.
1at Hawai'i-Manoa, 3 p.m. 2at Hawai'iManoa, 1 p.m. 6Matsusaka, Japan (exhibition)*, 6 p.m. 7Matsusaka, Japan (exhibition)*, 6 p.m. 8Matsusaka, Japan (exhibition)*(2), 1 p.m. 9Matsusaka, Japan (exhibition)**, 1 p.m. 23Western Illinois**(2), 11 a.m. 24Western Illinois*(2), 4 p.m. 25Western Illinois*, 10 a.m.
15at Hawai'i-Manoa, 6:30 p.m. 21at Washington (2). 22at Washington. 23at Pacific. 24at Sacramento State. 25at Sacramento State (2). 27at Sacramento State.
With two home fields on different sides of the Big Island and a campus practice facility, the Vulcans have been doing maintenance at all three sites in preparation for the 2003 season. They open the season Wednesday with a six-game series against perennial power Arizona State, which is ranked eighth in Baseball America's preseason top 25.
"Our kids earned degrees in field work," joked UHH coach Joey Estrella. "They've worked really hard."
The Vulcans will play 25 of their 42 home games in Kailua, Kona and the rest at Wong Stadium. Because of scheduling conflicts Wong is a county facility and is shared with the area high schools and community leagues more games were scheduled in West Hawai'i, Estrella said.
Besides depth in facilities, the Vulcans have depth in position players, said Estrella, who enters his 27th season as the school's only coach.
But his pitching is up in the air.
"We're inexperienced on the mound, as far as starters," Estrella said.
The Vulcans are hoping to improve on a 10-38-1 record from a season ago.
Nalei Sooto (.245), a fixture of the program entering his fourth season, is one of three Vulcan returnees who started at least 42 games last season. He led the team with five home runs.
Junior college transfer Chris Savio, who could see duty in the infield, is likely to spell Sooto.
Junior third baseman Johnny Dudoit, a starter the past two seasons, is the veteran of the infield. But a hamstring injury might keep him out for two weeks, Estrella said. He hit .265 and was second on the team with 24 RBIs last year.
The Daniels Lockett (.245) at shortstop and Rhodes (.212) at second will man the keystone. Lockett, who had two of the team's three saves last year, also will pitch.
First base will be anchored by newcomer Tom Henderson, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound JC transfer. He might play third in place of Dudoit to start the season. That would mean Ryan Hanohano and Scott McLaughlin getting action at first.
The outfield might be the team's strength with returnee Kaliko Oligo in center the team's leading hitter at .335 last season Sean Tamura in right and either Douglas Nassimbene or transfer Ernie Carvalho in left. Carvalho, a graduate of Waiakea, sat out last season after transferring from Auburn.
"Carvalho is fast and so is Oligo and Tamura," Estrella said. "If they all start, they're as quick as any outfield I've ever had."
Back with the Vulcans is senior right-hander Robert Shimabuku (1-8, 8.16 ERA), who led the Vulcans with 12 starts last year. He will be joined in the rotation by right-handers Lockett (2-3, 4.31), Jason Miyahira (1-1, 4.76) and JC transfer Brian Ebbs.
Right-handers James Onaga III and Joel Zimmerman will get spot starts.
With a staff dominated by right-handers, the loss of left-hander Jason Castro (4-5, 5.72) is magnified. He is not playing for personal reasons, Estrella said.
Joining Estrella's staff are former Vulcan Darin Miyake, who played from 1999-2001, and former Clemson player David Miller. Former major league pitcher Onan Masaoka is a volunteer coach.
Miller, the 23rd overall pick by the Cleveland Indians in the 1995 draft, has been nursing a hamstring injury with hopes of returning to pro ball, Estrella said. His connection to UHH is that Butch McNally, husband of UHH athletic director Kathleen McNally, was Miller's high school coach, Estrella said.
Estrella said he is in the final year of a three-year contract. He said it is "unclear" whether he will get an extension. He said he wants to continue to coach at UHH.
This is presumably the Vulcans' final year as an independent, which they have been since last year after a two-year stint as a Western Athletic Conference affiliate. The Vulcans are expected to join the newly formed United States Baseball Conference next season.