comscore Kitamura's bat work catches up with his glove story | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Kitamura’s bat work catches up with his glove story

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Defense has never been a problem for Hawaii junior Pi‘ikea Kitamura.

So far this season, neither has his offense.

UH’s starting shortstop has transitioned flawlessly from third base, going errorless in all 42 chances he’s had while turning six double plays.

But that’s nothing new.

What has been a surprise is Kitamura’s performance at the plate. Heading into a four-game series against Wichita State beginning tonight, the 6-foot-1 junior is third on the team with a .313 batting average.


At Les Murakami Stadium

» Who: Wichita State (5-3) vs. Hawaii (6-3)

» When: 6:35 p.m. today and Friday; 1:05 p.m. Saturday; 12:05 p.m. Sunday

» TV: OCSports (Ch. 12) Friday and Sunday

» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM



» UH: RH Matt Sisto (2-0, 0.00); LH Jarrett Arakawa (0-0, 2.45); LH Scott Squier (1-1, 5.19); TBA

» WSU: LH Josh Smith (1-0, 0.79); RH Mitch Mormann (1-1, 5.87); LH Albert Minnis (1-0, 0.96); LH Kris Gardner (2-0, 1.00)


He’s quickly worked his way up the order, hitting fifth twice and fourth once in last weekend’s five-game sweep of Wagner College.

He hit seventh in UH’s opening-night victory over No 12 Oregon, which is still the Ducks’ only loss of the season

"I’m feeling confident with my offensive approach and sticking with the plan," said Kitamura, a career .225 hitter before this year. "Taking the summer off and finding my swing has really helped and now that I’m comfortable I can be more aggressive."

Defense is the reason Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso recruited Kitamura out of Kamehameha. To prepare for a full-time move from third to short, Kitamura decided against playing summer ball and instead focused on his conditioning.

"The most notable difference is that he’s lost about 15 pounds," Trapasso said. "He did it more for range playing shortstop, but I think it’s helped him in all areas."

It took Kitamura 20 games last year to match the 10 hits he already has this year. Instead of worrying about his swing and climbing out of an early-season hole, Kitamura is now free to attack at the dish.

"I think keeping my mind off of average or how many hits I get or what I’m doing the next day has really helped give me a lot of confidence," Kitamura said. "Everything has been tweaked and I feel real comfortable right now."

Hawaii’s offense will face a formidable Shockers pitching staff, led by tonight’s starter, Josh Smith (1-0. 0.79 ERA).

Smith, who threw seven shutout innings in WSU’s only win in a four-game set here last year, is one of three lefties the Rainbows will oppose in the series.

Hawaii (6-3) hasn’t faced a left-handed starter this season.

"They’re big, physical, power arms and the fact that they feature three lefties will be a big test for us," Trapasso said. "One of the things we’ve been successful with is guys like (Stephen) Ventimilia and Kaeo (Aliviado) getting on base, being our only two lefties, and it’s going to be a challenge for them to get on base against those lefty starters."

Hawaii’s predominantly right-handed hitting lineup is led by senior Collin Bennett, who like Kitamura, has avoided the early-season struggle that plagued him a year ago.

Although he had a 10-game hitting streak end, the senior third baseman is hitting .423, leading the team with two doubles and eight RBIs.

"Last season I dug myself a hole and it was hard for me to get out of it for a while," Bennett said. "I’ve tried to come out with the mentality that this could be my last year playing baseball so have fun with it instead of worrying about everything."

Junior Breland Almadova has responded to moving from first to second in the lineup, hitting safely in six straight games to boost his average to .324 with six stolen bases and eight runs scored.

Wichita State (5-3) is riding a five-game winning streak. First baseman Johnny Coy is the reigning Missouri Valley Conference player of the week, hitting .600 with 20 RBIs in the Shockers’ five victories last week.

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