Outfield of dreams?

By Kathryn Bender,, Star-Bulletin
With the likes of shortstop Michael Dartt, top, returning for the University of Hawaii baseball team, coach Les Murakami, below, is optimistic the Rainbows will be much improved over last year.

With a stellar starting trio, coach Les Murakami looks for the Rainbows to be better this season

By Al Chase

At the end of the 1997 season, University of Hawaii head baseball coach Les Murakami vowed that this year would be better.

"When I look at this year's team, there is no way we're going to be like last year. Overall, we're in much better shape," said Murakami, who will be in his 28th year at the Rainbows' helm.

The optimism begins in the outfield - Greg Millichap (.305 in 1997) in left, Darren Blakely (.273) in center and Neal Honma (.320) in right - which Murakami calls one of the best ever at UH.

And if there are injury problems like last season, there are reserves. Redshirt freshman Jeremy Stegmaier and first baseman Jamie Aloy (.316) can play the outfield, and UH also has Kelly Konishi (.365) and Sean Takamori returning. And freshman recruits Brandon Martin and Joe Whitsett can run.

"Martin and Whitsett are young and need a little time, but they can play. We wouldn't miss anything defensively," Murakami said.

In the infield, Aloy will be at first and Sean Murphy (.276) will be back at third base when he is cleared to play. He had a rod removed from his right leg in December. It was placed there when he was in high school to counter severe shinsplints. UH team physician Dr. Andrew Nichols has told the coaches that Murphy's leg isn't strong enough yet and that he must continue rehabilitation.

But there is depth at third base. Matt Wheeler, a transfer from Lassen (Calif.) Junior College, is a versatile player who can also catch and pitch.

The middle infield will have Michael Dartt (.314) back at shortstop, with David Perreira (.281) the heir apparent at second base.

"Dartt constantly give 100, 200 percent. He just plays hard and makes things happen," Murakami said. "He doesn't have the arm I would really like at shortstop, but he has great confidence and he shows it.

"We give up some range with Perreira at second, but he has pop (with the bat) and he has to hit.

"Fortunately, we have options. Rory Pico, who has shown the biggest improvement over a year ago, can play second, and (freshman) Shaheed Nelloms might have the most talent in the middle, but he's not ready at this stage."

Catching is a big question mark for Murakami. He would like to see junior Lars Hansen (.296) claim the starting job. Hansen enjoyed a good summer with the Hawaii Island Movers, but Murakami said he plays the position better in practice than in games.

Wheeler will battle Hansen for the starting job. If neither can handle it, then Stegmaier, a walk-on from Kaiser High School, would get a shot.

"We liked Stegmaier from the first time he came out. He works hard, but it is difficult for a freshman to come in and start (at catcher)," Murakami said.

The pitching corps, unsettled much of 1997 because of injuries to three players and eligibility problems - for part of the season - for four others, should be better. But the staff is young and Murakami says it might be a year from realizing its full potential.

Right now, the top three starters are sophomore left-handers Randon Ho and Dusty Bergman (1-5, 7.21 earned run average) and freshman right-hander Patrick McNair. When the need for a fourth starter arises, it will be junior left-hander Troy Yoshimasu (1-1, 14.19).

"McNair has the the arm (he throws 87-90 miles per hour). He needs to be a little more under control," Murakami said.

Middle relief will fall on the shoulders of freshman right-hander Ian Jones, junior right-hander Ken Mackenzie (2-1, 5.58), senior right-hander Kamuela Binkie (1-0, 7.18) and sophomore right-hander Ikaika Baptista.

Sophomore righty Nathaniel Watterson and Wheeler, a right-hander, will get the first shots at the closer role.

University of Hawaii 1998 Roster

   No.  Player        Pos.   B/T   HT  WT   CL  
1 Tracy Nakano 1B L/L 5-8 160 Jr.
2 Rory Pico IF S/R 5-8 160 So.
3 Troy Yoshimasu P L/L 5-6 150 Jr.
6 Michael Dartt SS S/R 5-7 137 Jr.
7 Shane Chan IF R/R 5-8 154 Fr.
9 Matt Wheeler C/3B R/R 6-1 201 Jr.
10 Neal Honma OF S/R 5-11 169 Sr.
12 Greg Millichap OF S/R 6-1 194 Jr.
14 Sean Murphy 3B S/R 5-10 192 So.
15 David Perreira 2B R/R 6-0 195 So.
17 Sean Harvey P S/R 6-1 191 Fr.
18 Randon Ho P L/L 5-10 160 So.
19 Brandon Martin OF L/R 5-9 160 Fr.
20 Gavin Garrick P R/R 6-2 183 Fr.
21 Ian Jones P R/R 5-10 183 Fr.
22 Shaheed Nelloms SS S/R 5-11 145 Fr.
23 Kramer Aoki C R/R 5-9 178 Fr.
24 Joe Whitsett OF S/R 5-9 190 Fr.
25 Jamie Aloy 1B L/L 6-1 205 So.
26 Nathaniel Watterson P R/R 6-1 180 So.
27 Derek Honma OF R/R 5-9 149 Fr.
28 Ikaika Baptista P R/R 6-0 175 So.
30 Darren Blakely OF S/R 6-1 195 Jr.
31 Michael Sakaino P L/L 5-10 185 So.
33 Lars Hansen C L/R 6-1 205 Jr.
34 Dusty Bergman P L/L 6-4 198 So.
35 Sean Takamori OF R/R 5-9 185 So.
36 Wade Taguchi IF S/R 5-10 168 Fr.
37 Jeremy Stegmaier C/1B S/R 6-2 195 Fr.
38 Patrick McNair P R/R 6-4 177 Fr.
39 Ken Mackenzie P R/R 5-11 215 Jr.
40 Lon Tanigawa 1B R/R 6-2 190 Fr.
41 Roy Hames OF S/R 6-0 180 Fr.
44 Kelly Konishi OF L/L 5-11 200 Sr.
46 Randall Benge P L/L 6-4 221 Fr.
48 Kamuela Binkie P R/R 6-3 218 Sr.
Head coach: (11) Les Murakami. Assistants: (32) Carl Furutani, (8) Dave Murakami, (29) Les Nakama.


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