Wong easing into new position
BY Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
It might be asking much for Kolten Wong to improve on his freshman season.
All the preseason All-America candidate did was earn freshman All-America honors from five different publications, win Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year honors and play for Team USA over the summer.
All well-deserved awards after hitting .341 with 13 home runs, 51 runs scored and 44 RBIs.
Now, in just his second collegiate season, he is being asked to move from center field to second base.
But for Wong an improved sophomore season is not out of the question. Hawai'i coach Mike Trapasso said a player's biggest improvement usually happens in his sophomore year.
"It will be hard to expect to see a big jump because he put up such good numbers (last year)," Trapasso said. "What we're seeing in him is the understanding that you can have a two-strike approach that hits to all fields. Boy, when he does that instead of just trying to pull the ball, he is a tough out. That's when you hit .380 in Division I baseball. He's really been doing that well."
With literally a full season of Division I experience — he was one of four Rainbows to start all 58 games last year — Wong embraces the position change and the adjustments he anticipates he will need to make in his second season.
"I'm excited and I'm a little, well, not worried, but you have that little thing in the back of your mind because all these (opposing pitchers) know you already," Wong said. "I'm not that freshman coming in, where I'm getting fastballs. Every single pitch (this season) will be their best because they know I can hit fastballs, but cannot hit this. But it's going to be fun. I have to come with a different mindset than I had last year."
Wong called playing on USA Baseball last summer "a privilege." He played the outfield, second base and even third base.
The position change isn't an issue with Wong, who was recruited as an outfielder, second baseman and catcher.
"I feel comfortable," he said. "I've been playing the position my whole life so moving to second base isn't anything really dramatic for me."
And Trapasso has seen the work ethic that made Wong successful as a freshman continue as he makes the transition.
"He's worked very hard on his infield technique," Trapasso said. "He takes pride in his infield (play). You see how hard he works at the new position, he's going to be successful at it."
Hawai'i's starting rotation for the Oregon State series has been set.
Senior right-hander Nate Klein starts Friday's opener. Sophomore right-hander Matt Sisto starts Saturday and junior right-hander Josh Slaats starts Sunday.
Junior left-hander Sam Spangler is tentatively slated for Monday's series finale. Trapasso said if Spangler is needed in relief Saturday or Sunday, then the Monday start is to be announced. If Spangler is used Friday, Trapasso said there's a possibility he still could start Monday.