At a shade under 5 feet 5, Hawaii Pacific freshman Ryan Torres-Torioka has been underestimated all his life on the baseball diamond, but that doesn’t stop him from making a giant impact.
The Sea Warrior second baseman and 2013 Konawaena graduate had a homecoming to remember against the University of Hawaii at Hilo in a Pacific West Conference doubleheader on Friday at Wong Stadium.
He was part of a 14-hit parade as the Sea Warriors pummeled the Vulcans 10-1 in Game 1 before 151 fans, including about a dozen Torres-Torioka family members and friends, and a boisterous section that cheered the visitors.
In the second game, Waiakea graduate Sheldon Shishido tossed 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief as the Vulcans salvaged a split, winning 7-4.
Torres-Torioka batted 2 for 5 with two RBIs in the opener, clobbering a two-run homer in the seventh inning. He was also flawless in the infield, recording four assists and making each look routine.
“It feels good coming back to the Big Island. I was pumped to play in front of my family and friends,” he said. “I homered on a fastball. It was a pitch right in my wheelhouse, middle in, and I turned on it, and put a good swing on it. I didn’t realize the ball went out until I reached second base because I was sprinting.
“I’ve been underestimated my whole life. It’s only when I make a play, then somebody will go, ‘Oh wow.’ I’m just trying to be the best I can be. I know what I can do, and I’ll do my best to help the team.”
Kevin Lanik went 2 for 3 with four RBIs, including a three-run homer, and Jordan Oshiro was 3 for 4, and Keanu Kapana 2 for 3 to add to HPU’s offensive onslaught.
Joshua Garcia fired a five-hitter with five walks and eight strikeouts for the complete-game victory for the Sea Warriors (27-21, 19-12 PacWest).
Seamus Yoneshige went four innings in the loss, and gave up four runs on six hits and two walks. Edison Sakata batted 2 for 3 to lead the Vulcans (12-31, 10-22).
Torres-Torioka’s best memory at Wong Stadium was the BIIF Division II semifinals in 2012 when he fired a two-hitter in a 1-0 victory against Hawaii Prep. Jayse Bannister (now at Holy Names), a year older as a senior, threw a three-hitter in the loss.
That game went down as one of the best pitching duels in BIIF playoff history. It’s one of the many marks Torres-Torioka left in the league. He was a three-time All-BIIF first team pick and helped the Wildcats to four trips to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament during his career.
Torres-Torioka, who has a 3.49 grade-point average, is majoring in business. After his four years at HPU, he plans to attend a community college to get a fire science degree.
With his productive Game 1, he bumped his batting average from .272 to .299. He has one homer and 21 RBIs.
“At the beginning he was struggling, but now he’s getting a feel for what it’s like to play college baseball every day,” HPU coach Garett Yukumoto said. “He’s grown from Day 1 to today. He works hard and has a never-give-up attitude. He plays the game as it should be played.
“The first judgment is always by appearance. People look at size, weight, strength, but for him he does what he needs to do, and he does it to the max. For his size, he’s got a lot of strength. He uses his total body (when he swings) from the bottom up, and that contributes vastly.”
In the nightcap, Hilo graduate Keenan Nishioka finished 2 for 3 with two RBIs, including a run-scoring double, and Jonathan James drove in two runs.
After pitching a scoreless inning and allowing two hits in the opener, Shishido (3-2) yielded three hits in relief of Jordan Kurokawa, with a walk and strikeout.
Michael Slifer finished with a scoreless inning for his sixth save.
Torres-Torioka went 0 for 4.
The series is meaningful to both teams under much different circumstances.
HPU, with the bulk of its roster built with local players, is ranked seventh in the West Region poll; the top six teams from the PacWest, California Collegiate Athletic Association and Great Northwest Athletic Conference qualify for the regional.
Also on the Sea Warriors’ roster is sophomore pitcher Dorian Rivera, a 2010 Konawaena graduate. He’s coming off labrum surgery and is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in seven innings over three games.
The Vulcans have no shot at stopping a record 22-year losing streak that covers the NCAA Division I and II and NAIA levels. However, they have a chance to better last season’s .273 winning percentage, a 12-32 record in retired coach Joey Estrella’s last year.
Under first-year coach Kallen Miyataki, the Vulcans have a .273 winning percentage. It didn’t help matters that there was a 17-game losing streak earlier.
The Vulcans had a pair of mental gaffes that cost them two runs, and hiked up their pitchers’ ERA a tad. In the fourth, HPU’s Cody Ellenwood hit a flyball off Yoneshige that center fielder Jordan Murai lost and fell in front of him for an RBI single.
In the fifth with one out, Torres-Torioka jacked a pitch off UHH reliever Bryce Shandro to left field, where outfielder Harrison Guiol misread the ball. He took a step in, stumbled, and the ball flew over his head for a double.
Shandro recorded just one out, and also surrendered a monstrous three-run homer to Lanik to the delight of the Sea Warrior fans. But the local boy got the much bigger roar when he pulverized a pitch off Micah Nakasone for a two-run homer in the seventh inning, stamping his homecoming.
HPU 0 00 224 200 — 10 14 1
UHH 001 000 000 — 1 5 1
UHH 7, HPU 4: