Turning the corner

UH’s departing seniors have
been the foundation on which
the Rainbows rebuilt

Clary Carlsen, Brian Finegan, Josh Green, Creighton Kahoali'i, Jaziel Mendoza, Andrew Sansaver and Chuck Withers make their final home appearances in a Rainbow baseball uniform this week.

The seven Hawaii seniors have contributed to the improving program that is one victory shy of equaling the 30 wins the 2003 team produced.

Fresno State at Hawaii

When: Tomorrow and Friday, 6:35 p.m., Saturday, 1:05 p.m.

Where: Murakami Stadium

TV: All games live, KFVE, Channel 5

Radio: All games live, KKEA, 1420-AM

Tickets: $6 Orange, Blue levels. $5 Red level. $4 Seniors, children age 4-18, UH students in the Red level.

Parking: $3

They want to continue the success of last weekend when the 'Bows play Fresno State in three Western Athletic Conference games starting tomorrow.

Carlsen, Finegan, Green, Mendoza and Sansaver transferred from junior colleges to Hawaii last year. Kahoali'i and Withers became a Rainbow this year.

All seven are on track to earn their degrees within the next year and a half.

"We hope to look back a couple of years from now and say they are the cornerstone of the foundation of the rebuilding process we went through," said Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso.

"If it hadn't been for these guys, it could have taken a much longer time for us to get this program going in the right direction."

Carlsen was used primarily as a closer as a junior, earning five saves and leading the staff with a 2.08 earned-run average.

The right-hander liked being a closer, but at first he had a hard time accepting the role.

"You want to be in there and control what's going on," Carlsen said. "I finally convinced myself everyone has to have a role to help the team win. I was lucky this year that coach (Trapasso) gave me a chance to start."

Carlsen actually held down both roles early this year, but became the Sunday starter a month into the 2004 season.

He was approached by a number of schools while at Edmonds College, but did not have many firm offers.


"When Hawaii came in, it sounded like a good idea. I had spent two weeks on Maui after graduating from high school and loved it. I was happy to get back," said Carlsen, who is majoring in marine biology.

"I'm going to finish up here so I'll be here for a while. It's not a bad thing. I'll have time to get out and experience things here. I'm pretty much a day-to-day guy, but the plan is to have a job that will keep me next to the water. I grew up (on Puget Sound) fishing and water skiing. As long as I'm in a boat floating around, I'm happy."

Finegan came to UH from Cuesta College, claimed the shortstop job and has played 102 consecutive games there.

"I take a lot of pride in that. It's just the fact of being consistent day in, day out, to be injury free and keep the job that long," Finegan said. "It's a big deal for me because you can't do anything on the bench."

He likes the artificial surface at Murakami Stadium because "you get cherry hops every time." The hardest part for him is going back to grass when the Rainbows go on the road.

"We get one day on grass, then it's game time. We've been fortunate to play well on grass," Finegan said. "Our pitchers get ground balls, so we take pride in limiting our errors, backing up our pitchers."

Finegan cites the friendships he has made here and knows he will keep in touch with his teammates in the future.

"You can't beat the people I've met here. It has been phenomenal," said Finegan, who expects to take over the family business (his dad's car dealership) once his baseball days are over.

He will complete his degree work either here or at Fresno State. That may have to wait, since there is interest from pro scouts.

Green came from Feather River Community College and became the 'Bows' starting right fielder. He struggled offensively, then suffered a foot injury as a junior. The offensive woes continued this year.

"My goals were high and how I have played or performed hasn't been what I hoped for," Green said. "I like to think I've contributed a little. I know I have the ability.

"The team has gotten better both years I've been here and I would like to see it continue that way. We've got to keep working hard."

The overall experience has been fun for the Reno, Nev., resident.

"Hawaii has been a complete change for me. Last year was the first time I ever swam in the ocean. It is a different lifestyle here and I've enjoyed it," Green said.

He plans to return to Reno and finish his degree work at Nevada next year, then possibly consider a job offer he has in the construction industry.

"I just want to settle down, get a house and live a normal life," he said.

Kahoali'i spent three seasons at California, where his playing time as a catcher (22 games) and a pitcher (10 2/3 innings as a sophomore) were limited. He made the decision to transfer at the end of the Bears' season last spring.

"Hawaii was my first option on the board because I knew the coaching staff," said Kahoali'i, who was born and raised in California.

He was recruited out of Newark (Calif.) Memorial High School by Trapasso and assistant coach Chad Konishi when they were at Georgia Tech and San Francisco, respectively, and Kahoali'i played for assistant Brian Green in the Alaska League. As soon as the UH staff said there was a spot here, the decision was easy.

"I have loved it here. It has been a great experience, not only as a baseball player, but for me as a person," said Kahoali'i, who will return to California for the fall semester and graduate in December.

He has played more games for the Rainbows (37) than he did in three years at Cal, first getting a shot at third base that did not work out, then becoming the regular catcher when it was necessary to move Matt Inouye to center field.

"I started a little slow behind the plate, but things fell into place. It's great being on the field every day," said Kahoali'i, an American Studies major.

His long-range goal is to get into corporate recruiting, but says he will probably take the first job he is offered after graduation.

Mendoza, who has played left field and right field when not battling injuries, said, "It has been an experience. Culture wise, this is a big experience for me. The people are more friendly, more mellow than in California."

He and Sansaver came to UH from Delta Junior College and both have the same career choice, firefighter, and will take a one-year course at a fire fighting academy in California after graduation.

"Andy and I, we're a team," Mendoza said. "Being a firefighter is like being on a team. You have to stay in shape and you are out there helping the community.

"This team gets along well. We all know what we are here for. I came here to play. The baseball has been good when I wasn't hurt and I will graduate this fall."

Sansaver arrived at the Manoa campus with one goal in mind: to compete for a job in a Division I program. The Rainbows' first-base job was open. He won it and has displayed his slick fielding talents there for 101 of the 102 games UH has played since opening day 2003.

The transition to D-I ball took time, but the JC transfer had a strong second half last year to finish with a .281 batting average. This year he has been more consistent and his average is nine points better.

Sansaver's experiences on and off the field have been positive.

"I love this game and I play it like a little kid. That's the way I feel. The atmosphere, especially around the stadium ... I've never played anywhere like this before. It has been a different but good experience," said Sansaver, who wants to be part of an emergency medical response team when he becomes a firefighter.

"I knew about the beaches and the weather, but what has taken me over is the culture. There are so many different ones here. It is so beautiful in one way, yet sometimes I don't know how to interact with some people. I don't think I'll ever experience anything like this again."

Sansaver will take two summer classes, then finish his degree in psychology this fall.

Withers, who is from Anchorage, was pitching in the Alaska League last summer looking for a Division I school to play for after a semester at Nevada-Las Vegas proved fruitless. One of his teammates was Keahi Rawlins, who told the UH coaches about the right hander. Withers joined the team last fall as an invited walk-on.

"It was last minute. I'm happy playing ball, being here, making good friends and enjoying the experience," Withers said.

"You only get to play a couple of months in Alaska and don't have the opportunity to develop your skills. This past year my skills have improved and I think I'm on a par with the average pitcher."

Withers will graduate with a degree in political science in another year. He begins studying Arabic next semester, plans to attend graduate school on the East Coast, then possibly go to work for the CIA.


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