HONOLULU – To commemorate Mike Trapasso’s 19th season as head coach, the Hawaii baseball team found an appropriate band.
The Rainbow Warriors are wearing green wristbands with this message: Find the joy.
“More than anything else,” Trapasso said, “our guys need to find the joy. Players — anybody — play better when they find the joy.”
There is joy in Trapasso’s baseball world with Friday’s season opener against UH-Hilo at Les Murakami Stadium. UH’s hurlers were sharp in fall training — throwing strikes on 75% of their pitches — and they received boosts from the return of Dustin Demeter and Adam Fogel.
Demeter missed the 2019 season after undergoing surgeries to both hips. “Demeter is 100%,” Trapasso said. “He’s good to go.”
Demeter played shortstop as a freshman in 2017 and second as a sophomore. He is set to play third during this weekend’s two-game series.
“It’s a better fit for him,” Trapasso said of Demeter’s warming to the hot corner. “We always felt, when we recruited him, he eventually would end up on a corner — third or first. The surgeries necessitated that. He can still go over and play second, if we needed that. We’ve got the the depth, so we don’t need that now.”
Demeter displayed pop and discipline two years ago, during which he had a 21-pitch at-bat. “Having not played in a year, he’ll need to knock the rust off,” Trapasso said. “He’ll need some at-bats.”
Fogel missed all but 10 games after suffering a shoulder injury last season. Fogel will be used as the designated hitter this weekend, then build toward playing first base or the outfield.
“There’s no pain swinging,” Trapasso said of Fogel’s batting stroke. “He’s swinging at 100%. That’s the most important thing.”
The ‘Bows also appear set down the middle. With Tyler Murray ailing, Kamehameha-Hawaii alum Dallas Duarte is expected to catch both games. Duarte played 45 games last season (.261 average, 29 runs, 22 RBIs, five doubles and one home run), but only 15 as a catcher. “Dallas has had a tremendous spring receiving, throwing, blocking,” Trapasso said. “He’s emerged as the lead (catcher) now.”
Kole Kaler, a switch hitter who transferred from South Mountain Community College (Ariz.), has solidified the shortstop job.
“He’s one of the more mature kids I’ve been around,” said Trapasso, noting Kaler is a fielder with range and a potential leadoff hitter.
Matt Wong, a Saint Louis School graduate who played at College of Southern Nevada the past two seasons, will open in center field.
“He’s as good a center fielder as we’ve had,” Trapasso said. “That’s high praise because we’ve had a lot of good ones. He’ll be fun to watch for our fans. He plays a shallow center field, which his not an easy thing to do in Murakami Stadium. He goes back on the ball well. Because of the short center field, he’s able to cut down a lot of balls hit in front of him.”
Trapasso said Logan Pouelsen will be UH’s starting pitcher on Friday, and Aaron Davenport will get the start on Saturday. Both are expected to be on restrictions up to 90 pitches. Trapasso said the other 14 pitchers will be available for relief. Trapasso has not decided on the other two starters for the following week’s four-game series against North Dakota State.
• The two teams last met in 2016 at Wong Stadium, splitting a two-game series.
• The Vulcans (2-0) opened the season last weekend with a scheduled four-game home series against Hawaii Pacific that was shortened to two games, but they made the most of it, winning 6-3 and 9-3 in Pacific West Conference contests. On Sunday, the Vuls play a doubleheader at HPU, one of which is a makeup game.
• Kyle Alcorn (0-0, 6.00 ERA) and Christian Casados (1-0, 4.00) are listed as the Vuls’ probable pitchers for UH.
• In addition to Duarte, there are three other Big Islanders listed on UH’s 2020 roster. Kamehameha alum Daylen Calicdan, a redshirt junior outfielder, led the Rainbow Warriors in hitting (.310) last season, starting 44 games and playing in 48, and was second on the team with 10 doubles. Joining UH this season are freshman Stone Miyao, an infielder from Waiakea, and left-hander Tai Atkins, a former teammate of Duarte and Calicdan at Kamehameha.