Estrella’s UHH Career Ends With Doubleheader Sweep of AAU
For all of 10 minutes after the end of the final game of the season, everything seemed to go along as it normally would. Head Coach Joey Estrella took the microphone, presided over the senior celebration, and said goodbye to the parents and fans in attendance.
As soon as he wrapped up the festivities, a voice from the press box gave one more command. It was the voice of University of Hawai`i at Hilo Sports Information Director Kelly Leong that asked for Estrella to take one final trip around the bases, celebrating the end of 37 years at the helm of the UHH baseball program.
Estrella quickly jogged around the bases and stepped on home plate. He was immediately met by a large splash of water from a Gatorade cooler held by a pair of his players. At that point, it was a reminder that Saturday night was no ordinary season finale.
Estrella’s Vulcans picked up two more victories to earn a series sweep of Academy of Art and to improve his career record at the school to 660-929-5. UHH took the first game 7-3 and pulled away in game two 8-5.
UH Hilo went with Seamus Yoneshige to start the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader. He walked a pair of hitters to open the second inning before a wild pitch brought home Kevin Decker several batters later to put the Vulcans ahead 1-0.
The lead would not hold for long with the Vulcans batting in the bottom half of the inning. Keenan Nishioka and Brad Fairweather both walked against starter Nicholas Boyett, and with one out in the inning, Austin Cusack drilled a double to left center field to plate them both. The next man up, Steffen Miner, brought Cusack in with an RBI single to give UHH a 3-1 lead.
UH Hilo got one more in the bottom half of the next inning when Boyett’s wild pitch scored Zachary Hamasaki, who reached on a one-out single, to improve their lead to 4-1.
Yoneshige’s struggles continued in the fourth inning. Myles Babbitt singles to lead off the inning, and two batters later, James Singzon singled, moving Babbitt to second. Dante Redhead followed with a double to left field, scoring Babbitt to cut the Vulcans’ lead to 4-2. Two batters later, Cody Edmunds grounded out back to Yoneshige, which brought Singzon home to cut the AAU deficit to one run.
A walk followed, and Yoneshige’s day would come to an abrupt half. In three and two-thirds innings, he allowed three runs, three hits, and six walks. He also struck out three batters in the no decision.
Sophomore Jeremy Dela Cruz entered the game and pitched beautifully out of the bullpen, picking up his first win of the season with five and a third innings of no-hit baseball with his only blemishes being a pair of walks.
UH Hilo’s offense got one more shot in offensively on Boyett before his day ended after six innings. With one out in the sixth, Samuel Kim drilled a triple to right field. Fairweather followed with a triple of his own to bring Kim across home plate to extend the lead to 5-3. Two batters later, Miner doubled down the left field line to score Fairweather to give UH Hilo a 6-3 advantage.
Hawai`i Preparatory Academy graduate Kai Fink pitched the last two innings for the Urban Knights. He allowed a run in the bottom half of the eighth inning when Keenan Kaluau drove in Keenan Nishioka with an RBI single to improve the score to 7-3.
Boyett took the loss for Academy of Art, falling to 2-7 on the season.
In game two, Academy of Art jumped out on top with an early run off of senior Richie Mariano. Kalani Brackenridge doubled on a ball that took an untrue hop over shortstop John Abreu, with the former Rainbow baseball player using his speed and hustle to extend the play into second base. The next batter, Ryan Ramirez, followed it up with a double of his own to bring Brackenridge in.
After Myles Babbitt reached on a fielder’s choice that erased Ramirez from the basepaths, James Singzon singled to right field, and Babbitt was motoring past third base and was on his way home. The throw from right fielder Kris Kahanu reached catcher Tyler Nitahara in plenty of time, and Babbitt caused a collision at the plate. Nitahara held on to the baseball to secure the final out and Babbitt was ejected for using his forearm to create the crash. That drew both dugouts onto the field for what amounted to nothing more than exchanged words and players trying to be peacemakers.
As has been the norm in this series, UHH always found ways to answer the opening strike from their visitors. In the bottom of the first, with two on and two out, Keenan Nishioka singled in Tyler Nitahara to tie the game. Nitahara doubled to left-center field just minutes after trainer Dick Koch was talking to him to find out if he was in suitable condition to play following the home plate wreck.
Academy of Art struck right back in the top half of the second inning. Redhead walked and Jeremy Williams doubled to start the frame, and three batters later, Brackenridge brought them both in with a single to give the Urban Knights a 3-1 lead.
AAU starter Sam McAlear didn’t last long following a rough second inning. With one out, UHH senior Greg Cleary drilled a home run over the scoreboard in left-center field to get the Vulcans’ within a run. That home run drew Yoshi Uemura out of the bullpen to replace McAlear, and the lefty from Albany, CA failed to record an out. He walked Zachary Hamasaki, walked John Abreu, and hit Garrett Micheels with a pitch before walking Nitahara to score the tying run.
In the fourth, the Vulcans’ defense gave the Urban Knights the lead back. Joseph Marchini singled with one out, but a bad throw from Kahanu in right field allowed Marchini to take second base. Shortly after that, Mariano’s pickoff throw to second base sailed into center field, pushing Marchini to third base. Mariano would strike out Edmunds to get the second out, but a wild pitch on strike three allowed Marchini to score, giving Academy of Art a 4-3 lead.
UHH answered immediately in the bottom of the fouth. Stefen Henderson, who came on in relief in the second inning, hit Micheels to start the inning. Nitahara sacrificed him over to second base and a wild pitch advanced him to third. Later in the inning, the Vulcans’ employed a delayed double steal with Samuel Kim running off of first base. The throw from catcher Singzon to second base allowed Micheels to streak home, tying the game at four.
The big inning came in the fifth inning. Both Fairweather and Cleary reached on errors to start, and Hamasaki walked to load the bases. Ryan Donahoe would replace Henderson on the mound, and he immediately would give up a two-run single to Abreu, followed by a Micheels two-run single, to give UHH an 8-4 lead.
Senior reliever Patrick Fletcher came on to finish the game in the seventh, and despite allowing a run on a fielder’s choice from Ramirez, he closed the book with a 4-6-3 double play to end the season.
Mariano picked up hie first win of the season in the final game, going six innings and allowing four runs, three of them earned, on six hits.
The Vulcans finished the 2013 season with 12 wins and 32 losses. They went 11-29 in PacWest play.
Academy of Art 010 200 000 – 3 3 0
Hawai`i Hilo 031 002 01x – 7 8 0
Academy of Art 120 100 1 – 5 8 2
Hawai`i Hilo 120 140 x – 8 8 2