Hawai’i drops season-opening 13-inning marathon against Ole Miss, 5-4

Hawai’i drops season-opening 13-inning marathon against Ole Miss, 5-4

Hawai’i drops season-opening 13-inning marathon against Ole Miss, 5-4

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 16, 2024

HONOLULU – Todd Gurley walked out to the mound with a big smile on his face, taking in the beauty of Mānoa’s premiere baseball field as he tossed out the opening pitch for the University of Hawai’i baseball team’s season as the BaseBows kicked off the 2024 campaign with a high-anticipated matchup against Ole Miss (1-0) in front of a sold out Les Murakami Stadium. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (0-1) fell Saturday evening in a marathon of an opener to a four-game set against 2022 national champion Ole Miss, 5-4 in 13 innings in beautiful Mānoa. 

Left-hander Harrison Bodendorf got the start on the mound for the Rainbow Warriors following his All-America freshman year, giving up a ground-rule double on the game’s first pitch after right fielder Sean Rimmer lost the ball in the lights. The sophomore southpaw responded by picking up his teammate, getting the next three Rebels batters in order to end the early threat from the visitors unscathed. 

Hawai’i left fielder Jake Tsukada kicked off the offensive side of the game for the ‘Bows with a hard-fought walk to lead off the bottom of the first against Ole Miss starter JT Quinn before the right-hander struck out Dallas Duarte and Stone Miyao to settle back in. Hawai’i first baseman Ben Ziegler-Namoa would pop out to the shallow left field grass to end the ‘Bows first inning threat. 

Ole Miss got the scoring started in the top of the second after centerfielder Ethan Groff hammered a Bodendorf offering over the left field fence to push the Rebels out in front, 2-0. Hawai’i’s Bodendorf did not let the poor pitch linger in his mind, escaping the inning by retiring the next three batters with a sharp groundout to first and back-to-back Ks to hold the damage at two runs. 

Hawai’i scratched out their first hit of the night as CF Matthew Miura hustled down the first base line for an infield single, but nothing more came from the ‘Bows bats in the bottom of the second. 

The Rebels tacked on another run in the top of the third, capitalizing on back-to-back one-out walks with an Ethan Lege RBI single up the middle before Hawai’i was able to end the top of the third. The bats for the ‘Bows remained quiet in the bottom of the third, going down in order as freshman Elijah Ickes struck out swinging in his first college at-bat. 

UH started action in the bullpen in the fourth as Bodendorf walked his third Rebel of the night, but the southpaw quickly returned to form to set down Ole Miss in the top of the fourth and keep it a three-run contest. Ziegler-Namoa led off the bottom half of the inning with a walk, coming around to score on a deep Austin Machado RBI single off of the top of the right field wall to put the BaseBows on the board. Miura quickly stole third after, putting runners on the corners for Hawai’i before coming home on an RBI single from Sean Rimmer that bounced off the pitching hand of Ole Miss’s Quinn to help end the Rebels’ sophomore’s night on the mound. 

The Rebels’ Mason Morris entered in relief needing two outs to maintain the slim one-run advantage for the visitors but was immediately greeted by a Kyson Donahue RBI double that sliced down the left field line to tie things up in the bottom of the fourth before Ole Miss finally escaped the frame. 

Hawai’i senior Alex Giroux replaced Bodendorf to open up the fifth as the ‘Bows reignited the sell-out crowd’s energy in the half-inning prior. 

Giroux worked quickly through the Rebels’ lineup, retiring three of the four batters he faced to keep the game knotted up. Hawai’i’s offense returned blank fire in the bottom half of the frame to give the game the first scoreless inning since the opening one of the night. 

The sides traded zeroes again in the sixth as Giroux faced the minimum three batters thanks to a double-play ball before Hawai’i wasted a chance with a runner in scoring position in the bottom half of the sixth as Morris got Kyson Donahue swinging to end the frame. 

Ole Miss used three free passes from Hawai’i in the top of the seventh to load the bases up against Giroux with two outs, but the veteran righty was able to cut the Rebels off there by forcing Lege to lineout to right for the final out before the seventh inning stretch. UH gave Ole Miss a score with their turn at bat by putting a runner at second with only one out, but a pop out and strikeout of Stone Miyao killed the go-ahead rally quickly. 

Hawai’i took its first lead of the night in the bottom of the eighth, manufacturing the team’s fourth run with the help of small ball and a wild pitch as Ziegler-Namoa scored after back-to-back singles and a sacrifice bunt put him on third before scoring. 

The visiting Rebels didn’t wait long to tie things up once again after loading the bases with only one out in the top of the ninth as Groff plated his third RBI of the night with a sacrifice fly to deep center. Hawai’i put two runners on with one out in the bottom of the ninth as they tried to open the year with a walk-off win after closing the 2023 season with a walk-off victory, but a missile off the bat of Miura was snatched right at second base to double-up Dallas Duarte and send the game into extra innings. 

Each team continued trading zeroes into the night as the game approached the 5-hour mark in the 13th inning, seeing the debuts of new UH pitchers Danny Veloz and Hunter Gotschall after the ninth. The Rebels finally broke through in the top of the 13th against the freshman Gotschall as Lege punched an RBI single passed the outstretched glove of Miyao into right field for the game-winning hit. Hawai’i would hold Ole Miss to just one run despite a bases-loaded jam thanks to left-hander Tai Atkins, but one was all the visiting Rebels needed as UH went down in order in the bottom half of the 13th to fall, 5-4. 

Ole Miss reliever Mason Nichols earned the win for the Rebels while Connor Spencer recorded the save in the season-opener. UH freshman was charged with the loss for Hawai’i, giving up two hits and walking one in 1+ innings of work. 

The two squads are back in action on the diamond on Saturday for a double-header with the first pitch of game one scheduled for 1:05 p.m. HT. Randy Abshier is the listed starter for Hawai’i in the opening game of Saturday’s twin bill. Ole Miss southpaw Gunnar Dennis will be tabbed with the start for the Rebels. 

Local Pro, College coaches give back with USA Baseball Community Clinic at Farrington

Local Pro, College coaches give back with USA Baseball Community Clinic at Farrington

Local Pro, College coaches give back with USA Baseball Community Clinic at Farrington

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED DEC 18, 2023

KALIHI — Ten coaches, many with local Hawai’i ties that are sprinkled across the collegiate and professional baseball and softball landscape, came together this past Saturday evening for a five-hour clinic at Farrington HS in conjunction with USA Baseball — open to the public with a donation of $10 or more to the Maui Food Bank.  

In all, 15,000 meals were raised for the Maui Food Bank with San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Sean Manaea matching donations — wanting to help the cause. 

The event was split into five 45-minute presentations covering culture building, infield mechanics, pitching, bunting & baserunning along with a hitting Q&A panel with current and former professionals, all led by Hilo-native, Waiakea alum and current Cleveland Guardians Major League field coordinator Kai Correa. 

It was the third straight year that Correa has been able to put on the local clinic but the first time partnering with USA Baseball, who was referred to as a perfect partner for local Hawai’i baseball programs due to the amount of free resources USA Baseball provides — helping combat the lack of resources many programs face in Hawai’i. 

After a brief welcome from Andrew Bartman, the Director of Coaching Development for USA Baseball, Hawai’i Pacific University baseball head coach Dane Fujinaka began the informational portion of the clinic with a presentation about culture building and realistic player development plans. Among the main points touched on by Fujinaka and HPU strength & conditioning coach Skylar Yamamoto were making sure the team and individuals set goals before the season and to make sure those goals are attainable. 

CLE Guardians Major League fielding coordinator and Hilo native Kai Correa introduces HPU's Dane Fujinaka.

Yamamoto and Fujinaka often referred to the “lowest hanging fruit” that provides the most impact in players. To show this, the two coaches presented four case studies of players on the Sharks’ roster that increased pitch velocity, command, hitting for power and hitting for contact between spring and fall league games. The key often was that improvements were made in minimal ways but in impactful categories, looking to average exit velocity and maximum exit velocity for hitters and looking at strike percentage and fastball velocity averages for pitchers. 

As for culture building, creating healthy internal competition amongst the team with training groups and keep results posted for accountability. Fujinaka referenced the HPU baseball social media with graphics showing the team’s hardest throwers being posted as a list for everyone to see. That small piece of external proof of progress creates more intense competition while not gnawing at team camaraderie. 

Chaminade baseball’s head skipper Chad Konishi took the stage next, sharing the fundamentals of pitching for those in attendance with a focus on five specific keys to look at during the delivery of a pitcher — Balance, separation, direction, extension and anchor. 

Konishi believes that good pitching is built upon repeatable mechanics that are efficient. With a focus on those five keys, coaches can look to main categories to create a throwing motion for pitchers that is consistent and allows for instruction that is simple and connects with the player. 

The Silverswords head coach also discussed strategies for keeping runners close, the desire of what a pitcher wants to accomplish in controlling the run game and the body balance of pitchers. 

The clinic shifted to offense as University of Hawai’i-Hilo coach Jensen Sato got a chance to share the Vulcans’ secrets on developing strong running games on the base paths and proper bunting techniques and why each can be used in games. During the segment, Sato talked about the amount of preparation that goes into being a quality bunter and base runner before the game and moment that each skill is executed. 

Like many things in baseball, Sato shared that base running is built off of feel — the Vulcans coach runners to take the same lead each time by keeping the same routine for certain bases. Similarly for bunting, excellence in the technique comes from preparation by getting a player’s feet ready and balanced before trying to “catch” the ball with the bat to deaden it in the dirt. 

Those in attendance were treated to a special attendee as University of Washington softball head coach Heather Tarr spoke about the Huskies’ successful ways and how they’ve been able to build an elite program — presenting the blueprint of championship seasons. The near-lifetime Husky coach dropped multiple tidbits of knowledge and tools for young coaches to use but made sure to drive home that coaches and teams knew their “why” of a season, understanding that the “why” was the foundation and the “how” and “what” of seasons would help carry only as far as the foundation. 

Next was the Q&A panel that featured Kansas City Royals’ hitting coach Keoni DeRenne, Tampa Bay Rays’ prospect Shane Sasaki, former Chicago Cubs’ prospect Christian Donahue and former Milwaukee Brewers’ draft pick KJ Harrison to talk about various hitting topics, sharing their personal views on hitting and some of the best drills they found for working on specific movements in swings. Correa led the panel as the question mediator, keeping the conversation moving at a quick pace but allowing time for informational responses from the guests on stage. 

Correa closed the evening with an informative infield presentation of his own with the assistance of Fujinaka and former Washington softball superstar and current USA Softball player Sis Bates. The former San Francisco Giants interim manager talked about the five outs that are unaccounted for from regular ground ball outs, fly outs to the outfield and strikeouts. In that group, Correa showed, are rundowns, “stretch & picks”, pop flies, relays, re-directs and tags. In each of those instances there are little mechanical keys that great ball players in baseball and softball are able to do naturally without thinking to increase effectiveness. Some of those keys included preparation of the body before the ball arrives on a throw, efficient transitions from glove to hand and mental preparation of where the ball needs to go depending on placement of throw, among many other things. 

Overall, Correa and coaches were pleased with the outcome of the local clinic, hoping to continue the partnership with USA Baseball for years to come with the love of the sport in Hawai’i.