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Kurokawa Blanks Hawai’i in CG Two-Hitter

February 14, 2016, 9:12 AM HST
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UH-Hilo pitcher Jordan Kurokawa. UH-Hilo photo.

UH-Hilo pitcher Jordan Kurokawa. UH-Hilo photo.

Jordan Kurokawa picked up right where he left off at the end of last season in arguably the biggest game of his career.

Kurokawa, a senior right-hander from Oahu, allowed just two third-inning hits and a pair of walks while striking out seven, pushing the University of Hawai’i at Hilo baseball team to a 1-0 victory over big brother University of Hawai’i in the opener of the 2016 season.

“Growing up on Oahu, UH-Manoa has always been the school that I always wanted to go to and wanted to play for,” Kurokawa said. “Having a chance to play them was just amazing.”

Kurokawa (1-0) finished out last season with a complete game 10 strikeout performance against Academy of Art. He then competed in the Golden State Collegiate Baseball League, where he was named the Pitcher of the Year. The long layoff didn’t seem to temper the continued growth of the four-year Vulcan.

“When he first started and when you look at him now, he’s a totally different pitcher,” said UH-Hilo coach Kallen Miyataki. “He’s so confident and poised up there, and its amazing. You have all the scouts up there and everything, and he’s still there and he’s still poised, and I think that’s maturity. That’s what I talk about when I say this is the place of opportunity to grow as people and to learn all of these things. It’s just tremendous.”

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A crowd of 938, the largest crowd for UH-Hilo (1-0) in quite some time for a baseball game, was kept on the edges of their seats all games as both teams salted away opportunities with men on base. But Kurokawa, who graduated from Maryknoll High School, was on point throughout the game, mixing his fastball and changeup while throwing an occasional curveball to keep hitters guessing.

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“They [Hawai’i] took a look at me in high school and kinda just shrugged me off, so I’ve been working harder ever since then and tried to come out firing tonight,” said Kurokawa.

The first sign of potential trouble for Kurokawa came in the third inning, when he allowed back-to-back singles to Alan Baldwin and Matt LoCoCo, but a pair of flyouts got him out of the threat.

Only one other time did Hawai’i get a runner in scoring position. LoCoCo led the sixth inning off with a four pitch walk, and Jacob Sheldon-Collins got him over with a sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, junior Marcus Doi, a graduate from Mid-Pacific on Oahu, struck a rope toward third, where Vulcans third baseman Nate Green leaped up and to his right to bring the ball down, ending the threat.

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Kurokawa retired the last 12 batters he faced, including Doi on a seven-pitch strikeout to end the game. He threw 110 pitches, 20 of them coming in the last inning.

“We looked at a pitch count, which we said was about 80-100…it was a no brainer,” said UH-Hilo coach Kallen Miyataki of his decision to bring his starter back in the ninth inning. “I asked him to communicate with me, and he said ‘Coach, I want it.’ and so I said okay.”

Hawai’i (0-1) starter Brendan Hornung matched Kurokawa for much of the way. He allowed a base runner in ever inning, but got timely outs to keep the Vulcans scoreless for much of the game. In the third inning, Kyle Yamada reached on a single and Jonathan Segovia followed on an error by UH second baseman Josh Rojas, who couldn’t turn a double play, but on the very next pitch, UH-Hilo’s Jacob Grijalva bounced into a 6-3 inning ending double play to end the threat.

Two innings later, Michael Jenkerson and Yamada each reached base on singles against Hornung, but Segovia knocked into a 4-6-3 double play to keep the game scoreless.

Segovia, a sophomore and graduate of Kea’au High School, would make amends for the double play in the seventh. With Edison Sakata at third base and two out, Segovia hit a soft liner into shallow left field, putting UH-Hilo ahead 1-0.

Hornung (0-1), a first-year junior at Hawai’i, struck out three, walked two, and allowed the seventh-inning run on eight hits in six-and-two-thirds innings for the loss. Casey Ryan struck out two in an inning-and-two-thirds of relief.

The series finale will be played at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Daniel Moody will start for UH-Hilo against Hawai’i’s Kyle Von Ruden. The game can be heard on ESPN Radio’s AM 850 in Hilo and AM 790 in Kona.

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