By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
University of Hawaii at Hilo baseball coach Joey Estrella just can’t seem to get a break this season and could use a little luck as well as some clutch hits.
On Monday, the Vulcans dropped a PacWest Conference doubleheader to Azusa Pacific University, 14-2 and 8-1, in Azusa, Calif. But in both games, UHH had some golden opportunities to score runs and couldn’t get the timely hits that might have made a difference.
“We’re just not playing well right now,” Estrella said. “We’re getting guys on base, but then we’re not executing when we need to. We loaded the bases twice today and couldn’t come up with the clutch hits.
“On the other hand, Azusa Pacific hit the ball well and got good pitching. They played well.”
But even getting to Azusa was a struggle for the Vulcans, whose flight out of Honolulu on Saturday had to turn around after a passenger got sick.
“We left at 2:20 p.m. Saturday and was supposed to get into L.A. at 10:30 p.m.,” Estrella said. “But after taking the passenger back, we finally got to L.A. at 1:30 in the morning. Then we couldn’t get our vans and had to spend the night in the airport.”
Tough luck for Estrella and his players. But he said they got to practice Sunday and felt good going into Monday’s twinbill. And things might have worked out better if they could have come up with some clutch hits.
“We’re continuing to play hard and looking to turn our luck around,” Estrella said.
In the opener, the Azusa Pacific (7-17 overall, 5-9 PacWest) had 18 hits. Ryan Henley led with four hits, including a home run, and drove in four runs. Dusty Sanderson (4 RBIs) and Matt Kimmel each added three hits.
For the Vulcans (5-23-1, 5-17-1), Tyler Nitahara had three hits and an RBI. Lead-off hitter John Abreu added two hits, including a solo homer.
Azusa Pacific starter Zachary Hedges went the distance for the win. He gave up seven hits and two runs while striking out eight and walking two. UHH starter Dane Kinoshita pitched three innings and took the loss. He allowed nine hits and seven runs.
In Game 2, Nate Namanny scattered seven hits over seven innings as the hosts prevailed 8-1. Namanny struck out one and walked six, but despite his troubles, the Vulcans couldn’t break through.
Namanny got the win. Vulcan starter Gavin Kinoshita gave up seven hits and six runs in 3 1/3 innings. He took the loss.
Brendan Casey led Azusa Pacific’s 12-hit attack with three hits and two RBIs. No one paired hits for UHH.
Kacie Harada was tied for 31st place after the first round of the Anuenue Spring Break Classic on Monday on Maui. The women’s collegiate tournament is being played at The Bay Course in Kapalua.
Harada, a junior, shot 3-over-par 75 on the par-72 course.
Also scoring for the Vulcans were Jade Salvador (T62, 78), Kristen Sawada (T78, 80), Erika Morihiro (T94, 88) and Nyssa Aoki (T94, 88).
Shannon Abarra played as an unattached individual and fired an 82 (T87).
Pepperdine’s Grace Na and Arizona State’s Noemi Jimenez were tied for first place at 5-under-par, 67.
Pepperdine leads the tournament with a 3-under-par 285, followed by Washington (287), Arizona State (289), San Jose State and Stanford (294), UCLA (295), Portland State (296), Fresno State (298), Denver, Colorado, UC Davis and Oregon (301), Tulsa (304), Oregon State (305), Nevada (307), Osaka Gakuin (311), host Hawaii (313) and UH-Hilo (321).
UH-Hilo was in third place after two rounds of Tukwet Canyon Men’s Intercollegiate held in Beanount, Calif. The event is hosted by Cal Baptist and wraps up today.
The Vulcans carded a 305 in the morning session Monday, then fired a 285 in the afternoon for a 590 total. They trail Chico State (573) and Western Washington (577) in the team standings.
“Chico State and Western Washington are quality teams, so that’s a lot of strokes to make up in one round,” UHH coach Earl Tamiya said. “We’re just going to go out and try to shoot our best and see what happenings.”
Tamiya said the Vulcans struggled in the morning session before he gave them “some encouraging words” and they played much better in the afternoon.
Junior Corey Kozuma led the Vulcans with rounds of 76 and 69 for a 145 total, a tie for seventh in the individual standings. Teammate Jamie Hall shot 72 and 74 on the par 72 course, for a 146 total and was tied for 12th.
Other UHH scores included Kyeton Littel (T-16, 78-70—148), Dalen Yamauchi (T-26, 79-72—151) and Chris Shimomura (T-38, 80-77—157).
Editor’s note: The UHH sports information office provided the golf information.