Sports Notebook

Friday, January 25, 2002

Sea Warriors take
on some of the
nation’s best teams

By Brandon Lee

Two series with nationally ranked Division II teams bookending a single game against Division I powerhouse Florida State.

This is the start of the 2002 Hawaii Pacific baseball team's season -- and they wanted it to be that way.

Crazy? No. Daunting? Yes.

The independent Sea Warriors purposefully scheduled the toughest teams in the West Region -- and other big names such as the Seminoles -- to draw postseason consideration should they win a lot of games.

On Wednesday, HPU (3-5) wrapped up its season-opening eight-game series with Div. II No. 8 (Collegiate Baseball) Sonoma State by splitting a doubleheader with the Cossacks. After taking the opener 17-5, the Sea Warriors failed in their bid to halve the series by losing 3-0 in the nightcap.

Div. I No. 2 FSU comes calling Tuesday morning at 11, and Div. II No. 28 Chico State opens a six-game series against HPU at 3 p.m. that same day.

"We play three ranked teams in a row and we've talked about it a lot," HPU coach Allan Sato said. "I told the guys that any time we go up against formidable competition, we gotta stay close and not fall behind early in the game. Keeping yourself within striking distance is the key."

But the Sea Warriors didn't stick to this game plan as much as they would have liked to in their series against Sonoma State, with relief pitching being a particular problem. On Monday -- the only day they were swept in a doubleheader by the Cossacks -- HPU gave up a combined 21 runs over the final two innings of both games.

Sato said that he hasn't given up hope on the pitchers he had intended to come out of the bullpen, but he has already done some shifting. Instead of right-hander Jesse Whittemore and southpaw Blane Muraoka, right-handers Neil Sullivan or Brandon Kahale will now be given the ball whenever the starters experience trouble.

As for other skills, the HPU skipper also stressed that patience at the plate on offense and "making the everyday plays" on defense are critical to stringing together some victories next week.

The Sea Warriors' mental approach is one thing the HPU skipper has been pleased with so far. Sato is confident that his players are focused on their task and will not be intimidated by any opponent.

"FSU is on our minds, but (playing ranked opponents) doesn't phase them," Sato said. "They know what they gotta do. They still gotta go out there, get three outs and be patient on offense -- no matter who we play."


The Div. I Hawaii men will be looking to get some revenge on the current titleholders of "Best Collegiate Team in Honolulu." Div. II No. 1 HPU (1-1) earned the title last fall by taking down the Warriors 3-2 in the annual City Intercollegiate Tournament championship match. The teams play today at 2:30 p.m. at the UH-Manoa tennis complex.

As for the other local Div. II teams, Brigham Young-Hawaii's men and women host Chaminade on Tuesday. The Seasider men are the third-ranked team in the country, while the women -- winners of national championships in four of the past five years -- are No. 2 in their poll. HPU's women begin play Feb. 5 against Chaminade. Hawaii-Hilo's men and women hook up with HPU on Feb. 17 and 18.


Chaminade (10-7 overall, 3-3 PacWest) plays at Brigham Young-Hawaii (11-7, 2-3) tomorrow night, but the marquee local matchup happens Monday night when first-place Hawaii-Hilo (15-3, 5-1) visits Hawaii Pacific (12-5, 3-2) at Blaisdell Arena.

The third-place Sea Warriors and the Vulcans are the only two local teams ranked in the latest West Region poll, with HPU at No. 8 and Hilo at No. 4.

The Vulcans have won 13 of their last 14 games, while the Sea Warriors are coming off a 2-1 road trip.

"(Hilo is) in first place, and they're not there for no reason," HPU coach Tony Sellitto said. "They've been playing very good basketball, and we've got to play our best game so far to beat them."

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