It was a perfect fit for Trey Yukumoto to join the UH-Hilo baseball team because familiarity was all around. He had an old teammate on board, his dad Garrett Yukumoto was an assistant, and coach Kallen Miyataki welcomed him with open arms after watching him rake his pitchers.
The graduate student transferred to UHH from Hawaii Pacific, where his dad was the coach from 2006 to ’18. He played two years under his dad and had his best season in 2019 when Dallas Correa took over as coach. He batted .347 in 37 games and had an on-base percentage of .467.
“It was kind of a no-brainer,” Miyataki said. “He always played well against us. He was one of those guys when you put him in a game he killed us. When someone who beats you, wants to come to you, then you don’t second guess him.”
Over four years from 2017 to 2020, Yukumoto batted .437 (14 for 32) in 14 games against the Vulcans. He only had three hitless games.
For the season, Yukumoto leads the Vulcans with a .351 batting average in 14 games and has a .467 on-base clip. In 12 games against the Sharks, he’s gone hitless only four times.
UHH sophomore shortstop Casey Yamauchi is next at .346, and the bat-control artist has struck out just twice in 52 at-bats.
After taking five of six games against HPU, the Vulcans (9-5, 9-2 PacWest) host the Sharks (2-13, 2-9) in a four-game series, starting at noon Saturday at their campus stadium.
Yukumoto graduated from Leilehua, where junior catcher Jaryn Kanbara is also a former Mule. Familiarity doesn’t really carry over to HPU, where the only pitcher Yukumoto knows well is senior right-hander Grant Dragmire, who’s the only senior. The staff has four juniors in Brandon Peterson, Brooks Horton, Zack McHone, and Jake Hintze.
The rest of the arms are all young, like sophomores Cole Mayeshiro, Stone Parker, and Shane Adams, and freshman Zakaia Michaels, a Kamehameha graduate. Most of the other top arms are freshmen like Gavin Pringle, Nico Gomez, Daniel Cortez, and Makana Quia, a scary scenario when they get more pitching experience in a couple of years.
Yukumoto and Yamauchi each stand 5 feet 9 but the ball doesn’t know the difference when it’s hit by a small guy or a big slugger when it’s ripped all over the field. The two infielders share more than just size.
“Trey knows the game very well. He’s not big in stature but is very smart,” Miyataki said. “It’s a pleasure to see him and Casey play together side by side. Both have that mental game. Both are overachievers. They not only have the skills, but savvy, too, and that makes a big difference.”
The Yukumoto household is a baseball family. The youngest Ty is a senior at Leilehua and is headed to Division III Pacific in Oregon.
“Compared to the same age as me, he’s a lot better,” Yukumoto said. “Pacific recruited him as a two-way player.”
After Leilehua, Yukumoto spent a year at Cal State East Bay, where he gained a sense of independence.
“I grew up a lot and lived on my own. I’m late-born, so I was 17 years old,” he said. “In Haywood, there was good Mexican food, and we had a pizza place where I lived. Costco had poke. I had my roommates try spam musubi and they actually liked it. One of my roommates liked furikake.”
Yukumoto has plans in place after the season ends. He was in the Hawaiian Airlines training program when the coronavirus canceled that. He’s also looking into a job as a federal customs border agent at the airport.
But before that, he’ll enjoy the time left, playing with his new friends at UHH and for his dad again. One of his goals is to make his dad, Coach Yuks, smile. For those who’ve seen him on a streamed game or in the past, he wears his game face all the time as the third-base coach.
“I’m cherishing every moment,” he said. “After we get a doubleheader win that’s when he smiles. Maybe if I get a triple, I’ll get a smile.”