Every senior athlete knows the feeling.
The moment the finality of it all hits.
The realization there is no next year.
For Hawaii baseball players Jeff Van Doornum, Sean Montplaisir, Zach Gallagher, Blair Walters and Alex Capaul, their performances suggest they’ve known this for a while.
As a group, they’ve stepped up in their final year to become a big part of a team that sits in first place in the Western Athletic Conference with eight games remaining.
» Who: San Jose State (31-18, 9-7 Western Athletic Conference) at Hawaii (27-20, 12-4)
“There’s no question it’s a group that has all had an impact,” Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. “To have three of those guys be seniors that have been here since their freshman year is pretty special.”
Montplaisir and Van Doornum alone have combined to play in 377 games — making 356 starts. Van Doornum, who redshirted his first year, was part of a recruiting class that included Vinnie Catricala, who already has started his third season of minor league baseball.
“It’s been a long time and definitely a big change for me, but it’s been a great experience,” Van Doornum said. “These (seniors) have really stepped up and I guess it hits you (as a senior) that it’s your last year and you have to step up if you want to keep playing.
“We just want to keep playing.”
The Rainbows will do so at least through the Western Athletic Conference tournament. Hawaii (27-20, 12-4) is the only WAC team to secure its spot in the postseason following a 5-3 road trip at Fresno State and Nevada.
The final home series for the five seniors begins tonight against San Jose State (31-18, 9-7). The Spartans are currently third in the league.
The Spartans and Rainbows play a similar type of ball, hitting .267 and .260 respectively. SJSU’s 4.26 team ERA ranks only behind the Bulldogs and the Rainbows, who post a 3.57 ERA, making for what likely will be a low-scoring series.
“That’s the hope,” Trapasso said. “They have a great pitching staff with great numbers, are the best defensive club in the league and won’t beat themselves, so we have to play well.”
Matt Sisto (3-4, 3.33) will get the start tonight and Jarrett Arakawa (5-3, 3.95) and Gallagher (4-2, 3.38) are expected to pitch tomorrow. The teams have a day off Saturday for commencement ceremonies with the finale set for Sunday.
Following Sunday’s game, UH will have a senior day ceremony honoring the five outgoing players.
PLAYING THROUGH PAIN
As impressive as his 21 career home runs and 196 starts, Van Doornum’s most impressive feat might have happened last weekend.
After taking a pitch off his right hand last Thursday at Nevada, his hand swelled up to roughly twice its size. Initially, it was thought to be broken.
An X-ray came back negative. With it heavily bandaged, Van Doornum played both games of a Saturday doubleheader at first base.
“Definitely painful, but I’ve only got so many games left,” Van Doornum said. “I’m going to try to help my team win and do whatever I can do to keep playing.”
Van Doornum is sixth on the school’s all-time list in homers (21), 10th in doubles (46), and is 13 hits away from jumping into the top 10 in that category.
His 14 homers as a junior were the third most ever in a season. Only John Matias hit more in a single season.
UNDER THE RADAR
Throughout his career, Montplaisir has played alongside center fielders Brandon Haislet, Kolten Wong, Breland Almadova and Collin Bennett.
Quietly, he’s put together an impressive four-year career, hitting .273 with 40 doubles and 92 runs in 172 games.
He saved his best season for last, hitting .332 with a WAC-leading four triples and team-leading 14 doubles.
“He’s been a guy that’s played on a somewhat regular basis for four years and has really come up big for us this year swinging the bat the way he has,” Trapasso said.
Montplaisir has started at least 30 games all four years he’s been at UH and matched a career high with four hits last Thursday at Nevada.
When his playing career is over, he can focus all of his attention on his art career. He has his own Web site at sean-montplaisir.com.
For four years, Capaul has flirted with a spot in the pitching rotation, making at least two starts each season.
Any doubts of the talent Capaul possesses were erased in a complete-game shutout of Fresno State last year at Les Murakami Stadium.
In one of the key games during UH’s conference run toward a WAC championship, Capaul shut out the Bulldogs the day after Hawaii was no-hit by Greg Gonzalez.
Hawaii was staring at four straight loses to start WAC play when Capaul held the Bulldogs to seven hits and one walk in nine innings, tying a career high with five strikeouts.
For his career, Capaul is 9-10, pitching more than 150 innings with 104 strikeouts to just 47 walks.
BIG GAME ZACH
In his two-year career, Gallagher has won seven games. Three of those have been at Long Beach State, at San Diego and against Texas.
Gallagher wasn’t a part of UH’s opening-day rotation, but has forced his way into the No. 3 starter spot. He threw six innings of two-hit ball in his first start of the year and his two losses have been just as impressive. He gave up three runs in 6 2/3 innings against Cal State Fullerton and allowed four runs in a complete-game effort against Fresno State two weeks ago.
He was close to untouchable last year in the WAC tournament, going 4 2/3 shutout innings in a victory over New Mexico State.
“He’s gotten some big wins for us in big games,” Trapasso said.
“It was so much fun last year, that ride going in as a four seed and pulling it off,” Gallagher said. “This year going in as hopefully a one seed or at least the top two, and pulling it off would be awesome.”
In his two years at UH, Walters has gone from a situational lefty out of the bullpen to a dominant set-up man.
Walters has formed a dynamic 1-2 punch with closer Lenny Linsky, helping UH to an 18-1 record when leading after seven innings.
“The job Blair has done setting up for Lenny has been huge for us,” Trapasso said.
With a 6-1 record and 2.93 ERA, Walters has set himself up to be an early-to-mid-round pick in next month’s draft.
As long as he gets to continue playing baseball, it’s fine by him.
“I’ll get a week or two rest after the season and then hopefully will still be playing,” Walters said. “It’s been a fun two years and I’m fortunate to be able to play on two really good teams.”
JEFF VAN DOORNUM
Height: 6 feet 3
Hometown: Huntington Beach, Calif.