Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, May 23, 2001



Rainbows achieved
modest objective

A ninth-inning rally
in the final game gave
UH a winning season

By Al Chase

The 2001 University of Hawaii baseball team made adjustments rarely required of any team and certainly not of any Rainbow team since head coach Les Murakami put collegiate baseball on the Hawaii map.

Murakami's stroke in early November just before the start of fall practice created a void.

Carl Furutani stepped in to do the best he could in his own way. The acting head coach said several times he could not do things the way Murakami had, nor could he command the respect Murakami did.

What Furutani did was work at establishing trust for himself and his staff with the players. There was a definite transitional period.

The often-stated goal was to have a winning season. The Rainbows accomplished that with a wild, seven-run rally in the final inning of the last game of the season, finishing 29-27.

"Everybody shoots to go to the College World Series. It's everybody's ultimate goal. I felt if we did everything right and got all the good bounces, we had a chance," Furutani said "The other thing was to make a super regional or regional."

Those goals disappeared early when the 'Bows started the Western Athletic Conference season with a 3-12 record, losing 12 of 13 games during that stretch.

A winning record remained the realistic goal.

"People judge you if you have a winning season," Furutani said. "The reason I wanted that is I feel everybody on this team is a winner. There is no question in my mind they will succeed in life."

The coaching staff worked hard at being consistent. Furutani refused to blame players when things went awry, when errors of a physical or mental nature were made. Instead, he discussed with the individual what went wrong and hoped he learned from the situation.

"I told them trust is a two-way street. The unquestioned trust took awhile, but that's normal," Furutani said. "There was a lot of things going through the players' minds, worrying about this year and next year. It's human nature to wonder about next year.

"Our message was to go out and play for this year. It took awhile for the players to get comfortable. I felt it happened right after we got over the losing streak. That's when things started to jell."

Starting with the San Jose State series, the Rainbows posted a 21-11 mark the rest of the season.

Slumps and injuries played a role in a starting lineup that was shuffled on a regular basis. The injury that hurt most was losing center fielder Derek Honma for the season.

Matt Purtell, who had played some second base and had been the designated hitter, took over in center until Arthur Guillen and Nate Jackson were ready. Furutani had planned to move Purtell to shortstop to give Cortland Wilson, struggling with his defense, a break.

When Guillen showed he was adjusting to Division I pitching, he moved to center. Then, when Jackson's football injuries had healed enough for him to play, he got the nod in center. That moved Guillen to duty in left, and in right to spell Tim Montgomery.

Kevin Gilbride took over in left for a period when Chad Boudon's bat cooled down. Lane Nogawa, when his pulled hamstring allowed him to go on the field, filled in at second base so Gregg Omori could rest his tendinitis-ridden right elbow.

"We did the best we could with what we had. I'm very proud with the way these guys handled themselves in these situations," Furutani said.

Danny Kimura at first base and Patrick Scalabrini at third base played hurt at times, but contributed solid play throughout the year. They missed just five and two starts.

Brian Bock became the everyday starting catcher midway through the season after sharing duties with Jacob Flick early.

Pitchers Jeff Coleman and Sean Yamashita each made 17 starts, but it took time to fill the third spot in the starting rotation. Gavin Garrick, Wakon Childers, Aaron Pribble, Matt Le Ducq and Chad Giannetti all had chances in the first half of the season. Giannetti secured the spot during the Verizon Rainbow Easter Tournament and joined Coleman as the most consistent UH pitchers in April and May.

Bryan Lee established himself as the closer early in the season.

Furutani feels the young Rainbows learned how to be mentally tough.

"A lot of learning went on this year," Furutani said. "When you look back, you can say Tim (Montgomery), Chad (Boudon), Cort (Wilson) and Brian (Bock) are on track.

"When we were out of the race, our players still played with pride, still played hard and gave everything they had."

The result was a winning season.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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