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Baseball draft hits ‘Bows hard

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    Hawaii's Josh Slaats went in the fifth round to the Colorado Rockies.

Hawaii baseball coach Mike Trapasso’s summer just got a whole lot busier.

The 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft dealt UH a huge blow, with at least seven possible 2011 Rainbows selected in the first 15 rounds yesterday.

Junior Josh Slaats was the first UH player off the board, taken in the fifth round (No. 170 overall) by the Colorado Rockies.

He’s the highest UH draft pick since pitcher Steven Wright was taken in the second round (No. 56) by the Cleveland Indians in 2006.

Junior shortstop Greg Garcia was taken in the seventh round (No. 229 overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals, and catcher David Freitas went in the 15th round (No. 446 overall) to the Washington Nationals.

"It’s a great day for those kids, because they got the best of both worlds," said Trapasso, who expects all three to sign. "They were able to play in a great place, play in a regional championship and are three years toward a degree and all of them will come back and finish their college education."

Garcia said he was told Monday night by the Cardinals that they would select him in the first 10 rounds. He wound up going in the seventh, and plans on signing with the club before the June 20 start day of short-season Single-A ball.

"At the beginning of the season I knew I’d get the opportunity and how high I went would be determined on my performance this year," Garcia said. "I couldn’t be happier about it."

His stock skyrocketed after leading the team with a .358 batting average this season. He finishes his three-year career with a .310 average, 31 doubles, and 120 runs scored.

He played an important role in the Rainbows winning their first Western Athletic Conference tournament title in 18 years, batting .444 (8-for-18).

"Throughout all my years of playing baseball, this was the best season of my life," Garcia said. "Finally getting to a regional and playing the best team in the country, I can’t be more thankful for everyone – especially my teammates."

As much as UH could lose from its current team, the 2011 recruiting class was hit even harder.

Three potential new Rainbows, including recent Mililani High graduate Keanu Carmichael, were selected in the first nine rounds.

Carmichael, a catcher who sat out this past season per transfer rules after leaving Kamehameha, was taken in the sixth round (No. 192 overall) by the Seattle Mariners.

He’ll be joined in the Mariners organization by Campbell pitcher Charles "Kale" Kaalekahi, who was taken in the 15th round (No. 462 overall).

Kaalekahi said he talked to Carmichael yesterday and both are going pro.

"He’s going to be my catcher," Kaalekahi said. "They said I’ll leave in a week and a half or two weeks for Peoria (Arizona)."

The Mariners, who took former UH third baseman Vinnie Catricala in the 10th round last season, also drafted UH recruit Luke Taylor, a 6-6, 200-pound right-handed pitcher from Woodinville (Wash.) High, in the ninth round (No. 282 overall).

Forty picks earlier, the New York Mets took College of Southern Nevada right-hander Kenny McDowall (No. 242 overall) in the eighth round. McDowall, another 2011 UH signee, was a teammate of No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper.

A total of eight players with local ties were selected yesterday. Recent Pearl City graduate Chace Numata was drafted as a catcher by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 14th round (No. 441 overall).

The loss of Freitas will leave Hawaii without an experienced catcher on its roster next year. Carmichael was signed to fill the spot left by Freitas, senior Kevin Fujii and Nick Croce, who has left the team.

The loss of Garcia will open up a spot at shortstop, which Pi’ikea Kitamura could fill, leaving a hole at third base.

Junior Sam Spangler wasn’t taken yesterday, almost assuring the left-hander will be back next season. However, with three pitching recruits likely off the table and the loss of Slaats and seniors Nate Klein and Harrison Kuroda, UH will need to find at least two more pitchers.

"That’s why you’ve got to have a contingency plan in place," Trapasso said.

UH did that last year, signing Freitas, Collin Bennett and Zach Gallagher at the end of the summer.

The Rainbows still have ‘Iolani graduate Jarrett Arakawa and left-hander Michael Blake from Mt. Hood (Ore.) J.C. signed for 2011.

Hawaii finished the 2010 season with an 8-4 loss to No. 1 Arizona State in the Tempe regional final on Sunday. The Rainbows (35-28) were ranked No. 30 by Collegiate Baseball yesterday, finishing a season ranked in a major poll for the first time since 1992.


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