In some years when the calendar turns May, UH-Hilo athletics is already closed for business.
There may be games going on, but they really don’t mean anything.
Not this year.
On May day, three Vulcans programs still maintain postseason aspirations, and men’s golfer Jared Kaneshiro already has his regional invite.
Nobody’s having a better time of it than UH-Hilo baseball, which hopes to find out it’s cracked the West Region rankings for the first time in forever Wednesday before opening a season-ending series at Biola.
“It’s fun,” coach Kallen Miyataki said. “We are really enjoying ourselves right now and we’re really upbeat.”
Fresh off taking three of four from then-No. 2 Point Loma in their biggest series in decades, the Vulcans (25-16), winners of 15 of 16, face their next biggest series in decades, a four-game nonconference set in La Mirada, Calif.
Biola (26-18) probably won’t recognize UHH the from the last time the teams met. The Eagles took three of four at Wong Stadium two months ago, but UHH as gone 21-8 since to reach second place in the Pacific West Conference. Biola is fourth at 17-15.
“They saw us at the beginning of the year,” Mitataki said, “and we had a lot of question marks.
“We’ve answered a lot of those question marks.”
UHH continues to get contributions from up and down the roster.
Kobie Russell, Dylan Sugimoto and Rustin Ho all had hot stretches, Miyataki pointed out, before cooling off, so up stepped RJ Romo, who finished with five hits in a doubleheader sweep Saturday at Point Loma.
“Romo tore it up in the last day,” Miyataki said, “and he was struggling.
”When someone goes down, others have been stepping up,” he said.
The Vuls received a big shot in the arm from their bullpen Saturday, with Christian Morales and Devan Elson combining to toss 7 1/3 shutout innings.
Morales (1-1, 7.04 ERA) will make his second start of the season Wednesday so ace Dylan Spain (5-1, 2.63) – the reigning PacWest pitcher of the week after tossing a three-hit shutout at Point Loma – can get an extra day of rest and start Thursday.
Miyataki said Morales, who’s worked 8 1/3 innings since allowing a run, and Elson, a 6-foot-7 left-hander, pitched so well in the first game Saturday that he didn’t need to turn to his usual middle- and late-game aces, Brandyn Lee-Lehano and John Kea.
Elson pitched three perfect innings with four strikeouts, using 27 pitches, and could be used in key spots against Biola.
“Elson dominated,” Miyataki said.
Travis Burelson (6-2, 6.51) picked up where Morales and Elson left off in the second game Saturday, pitching a seven-inning complete game. The sophomore right-hander will start Friday’s first game, with sophomore left-hander Kyle Alcorn (4-3, 3.98) set to work the second game, which is slated for seven innings.
“Burleson probably pitched his best game,” Miyataki said.
It’s May, UHH is playing and it matters.
“You couldn’t ask for anything more,” Miyataki said.
Softball: The Vulcans will have to take a wait-and-see approach on the postseason after finishing a 31-17 campaign with two solid wins at Hawaii Pacific on Sunday.
On Wednesday in the penultimate West Region rankings, coach Callen Perreira expects UHH to be ranked eighth or ninth. They were ninth last week, before a loss and a rainout at Chaminade and a pair of 3-2 wins at the Sharks (31-24) behind solid pitching performances from Valerie Alvarado and Isabelle Mejia.
Along with rooting against the teams this week ahead of them in the West – last week it was No. 6 Azusa Pacific, No. 7 Western Oregon and No. 8 Sonoma State – UHH hopes a lower-seeded team doesn’t break through to win the GNAC or CCAA tournaments to earn an automatic spot from a higher seeded team, which could then could take one of the five at-large regional spots.
It happened last season when Northwest Nazarene won the GNAC.
The Vuls, who are second in the PacWest at 24-11, also can root for Biola to beat Azusa (21-10) in a doubleheader Thursday. UHH took three of four at the Cougars in March.
Either way, UHH isn’t just going to wait around this weekend to see how things shake out.
“We’re going to practice so we can stay sharp in case we have to play again,” Perreira said.
Tennis: It’s not official, but Kallen Mizuguchi’s PacWest runner-up men’s team could be in line to host a regional – either in Hilo or West Hawaii – May 11-14.
Golf: Kinoshita, a senior, earlier this week secured one of four individual slots to regionals, set for May 9-11 in St. George, Utah.
Kinoshita is ranked 47th in the NCAA and has a stroke average of 72.37. Earlier this year, he won the Dennis Rose Intercollegiate in Waikoloa, shooting a school-record 11-under-par for the three rounds.