By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
It will be a working homecoming for Quintin Torres-Costa, who will help out at the University of Hawaii baseball camp and continue his regimen of improvement in his spare time.
“The homecoming is nice and it’ll be a lot slower pace than UH,” he said. “But I’ll keep working hard, throwing, running and working out. I’m not at the point I need to get to. It’s still a work in progress.”
The UH freshman left-hander put up impressive numbers against East China University in an exhibition last month at Les Murakami Stadium. In three scoreless innings, he allowed one hit and struck out six.
The 2012 Waiakea graduate picked up the 4-3 win in relief, and caught himself reminiscing when he pitched the Warriors to the school’s first Division I state tournament championship over Baldwin in May.
“I had a little flashback. Pitching against China, the game was at night, like the state championship,” he said. “I’m loving playing for Hawaii now. In that game against China, there was a lot of people. I’m amazed how much support Hawaii has.”
The Rainbows open their season against Feb. 15 with a four-game series against Oregon. They follow that non-conference series with a four-game set against national powerhouse Rice. Gonzaga and Wichita State are two other thorns on the schedule.
It will be UH’s first season in the Big West Conference, which features challenging competition. Cal State Fullerton (36-21 last season) was the only one from the conference to qualify for an NCAA regional.
UH (30-25) lost three key senior pitchers in ace Matt Sisto, closer Brent Harrison and reliever Jesse Moore, opening a door of opportunity for Torres-Costa.
“Quintin had a great fall camp. I’m really happy with him. He’s a legitimate two-way guy,” UH coach Mike Trapasso said. “We’ll definitely use him on the mound and he was playing the outfield and was really good. He’s got great energy and attitude. I love having him around and I’m really enjoying him.
“His pitching is a little ahead of his hitting. He’s a guy who will pitch meaningful, quality innings as a freshman. As far as a role, we haven’t got that far yet. We won’t settle that until the spring. But he’ll be in big games and big situations.”
The Rainbows clocked his fastball in the 86 to 91 mph range and worked on tightening his curveball. Trapasso also liked the quality of his changeup and mental approach.
“His fastball is his go-to pitch. He’s aggressive and challenges hitters and has life on his fastball,” Trapasso said. “His curveball was a little big and loose. We want it more like a slurve, between a curveball and slider. Right now, it’s a pretty good pitch. When he throws his changeup for strikes, it’s a true swing-and-miss pitch.
“He’s got great aptitude. He picks things up quickly and wants to develop his craft. He takes great pride in getting better.”
The transition to college life has also been smooth sailing for Torres-Costa, who’ll spend the Thanksgiving holiday week at home.
He’s one of eight local products on the team, but the only one from the Big Island. That will change in 2014 when Hilo shortstop Chayce Kaaua and Waiakea catcher/infielder Kean Wong join the team. Wong is a candidate for the Major League Baseball draft in June. Waiakea junior Kodi Medeiros is a UH verbal commit.
“We kind of call it the brotherhood and we’ve got to keep this brotherhood together,” Torres-Costa said. “We have great chemistry together. Hopefully, we can keep improving each year and try to give back to the community. That’s how we got here, from our community.”