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Field day for Vuls: Grass greener on campus digs as UHH sweeps HPU

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo center fielder Chris Aubort slides safely back to first Saturday during the first game against Hawaii Pacific. The Vuls won 8-1 and took the second game 4-3.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo second baseman Casey Yamauchi throws to first baseman Kobie Russell to complete a double play during the Vuls’ 8-1 win in the first game of a doubleheader. UHH won the second game 4-3.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo outfielder John Bicos swings for a hit against HPU.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo celebrates Saturday after two runners score Saturday against HPU.

There was no one warming up in the UH-Hilo baseball team’s bullpen when Kyle Alcoran had the bases loaded in the first inning against Hawaii Pacific.

Alcoran, the left-handed great escape artist, got ahead in the count, 1-2, then ran it full to No. 6 hitter D.J. Stephens. He threw a two-seam fastball, Stephens got under it and hit a harmless flyout to right field.

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Behind Alcoran’s seven innings of one-run ball, the Vulcans defeated the Sharks 8-1 in a PacWest Hawaii pod game on a sunny but overcast day at their campus stadium.

In Game 2, UHH edged HPU 2-1 in seven innings, scoring the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the fourth inning.

Christian Sadler pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Jonathan Buhl, who gave up three runs in 2 2/3 innings, for the win. Brandyn Lee-Lehano fired two innings and whiffed two for the save.

Casey Yamauchi had two RBIs, and Lawson Farias scored two runs for the Vulcans (2-3, 2-0 PacWest).

Branson Peterson pitched four innings and surrendered four runs in the loss for the Sharks (0-6, 0-2).

In Game 1, Alcorn allowed an unearned run in the second inning and finished with four hits allowed, two walks, and three strikeouts. The senior, from Lakewood, Calif., threw five shutout innings after a 31-pitch first inning.

“It was a little rough the first two innings,” Alcorn said. “The curveball wasn’t working, so we switched to the changeup and did good after that.”

His strategy switched to simplicity with no room for error, bases loaded, and a full count in the first inning.

“I was thinking hit my spot, get it in the zone somewhere. I didn’t want to walk that guy,” Alcorn said. “I was thinking land first. That’s a big thing for me. If I don’t land first, I usually open up with my front side. I decided to switch my out pitch to my changeup and that worked a lot better for me today.”

UHH coach Kallen Miyataki has confidence in his great escape artist, even though his stress level goes up.

“He was terrible at the start and enjoys seeing my blood pressure go up,” he joked. “He’s usually a pitcher who starts slow, if you look at his career. He settles down and is a grinder. I have a lot of confidence in him.

“Takashi Umino had a chance to come out, and we’re right where we want to be.”

Umino, from Japan, pitched two scoreless innings despite two walks and gave the rest of the bullpen a good rest.

The Vulcans jumped on starter Shane Adams for six runs in five innings. The damaging blows were two-run doubles by Jaryn Kanbara in the third inning and John Bicos in the fifth.

Kanbara batted 3 for 5 with three RBIs, Bicos 2 for 4 with two RBIs, Yamauchi 3 for 5 with two runs, and Trey Yukumoto walked twice and scored two runs for the Vulcans, who finished with nine hits.

Brandon Booz was the only one able to figure out Alcorn and had two hits to lead the Sharks, who left 13 on base.

The field looked to be in great shape, a nice shade of healthy green with no dead grass brown spots.

“We put a lot of work into it,” Alcorn said. “It wasn’t an easy process. We were grinding away every day and everything looks better than a few weeks ago.

“I love it out here. It feels like home. Wong is a bit different. It’s bigger and grander. We’re here every day.”

When it rained, the Vulcans covered the field with tarp and uncovered it when the sun made a brief appearance. Miyataki said assistant James Hirayama even put fans on the field to dry wet grass.

“We know Mother Nature controls us,” Miyataki said. “We’re blessed and we hope it holds up for the weekend.”

Alcorn is from a baseball family. His brother, Jacob, played at the University of Nebraska, and his dad, Harley, taught him how to pitch.

“My dad still helps me,” Alcorn said. “I’ve had pitching coaches along the way, who’ve helped me out. Coach Kal helps me out. I’ve been here five years, so there’s been an impact.”

One of the most inspirational players is the smallest, HPU leadoff hitter and left fielder Cole Kashimoto, who’s listed at 5 feet 3 and 135 pounds. The freshman, from Saint Louis, batted 0 for 3 but was hit by a pitch twice and walked three times.

HPU coach Dallas Correa is a Saint Louis graduate, so his alma mater is a prime recruiting spot. When he scouted Kashimoto, Correa looked beyond his outfielder’s size.

“He’s a sparkplug for us, and we’re excited to have another Crusader on board,” said Correa, who has three Saint Louis graduates and Kamehameha’s Zakaia Michaels, who has yet to make an appearance.

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“We love Zakaia. He’s a team guy. Somebody who’s going to get good innings for us,” Correa said. “He’s somebody who comes from a great background and a great school, too. We’re looking forward to him spending his career here.”

For the two-team Hawaii pod series, that’s the greatest thing, all the local kids, 26 on UHH’s roster and 13 on HPU’s. Best of all, it doesn’t matter what size either.

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