Both the University of Arizona baseball program and Aiea alumnus Kobe Kato have taken a giant step forward in the 2021 college baseball season. The Wildcats, who are the No. 5 national seed in their first NCAA Tournament since 2017, are set to host No. 12 Ole Miss in the Tuscon Super Regional later this week.
Kato, meanwhile, has seen his role increase from bench player as an underclassman to a key cog as a third-year sophomore. Kato, who was also a former standout quarterback for Na Ali’i, has started all 58 games for the 43-15 Wildcats in 2021, hitting .351 with 73 hits in 208 at-bats, including one home run.
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The Wildcats went 3-0 during regionals over the weekend with a win over Grand Canyon and consecutive wins over UC Santa Barbara. Kato had a hit in each game, going 5-for-14 with two RBI, four runs and a triple while starting all games at second base defensively.
Kato is one of a handful of players with Hawaii ties in the NCAA Tournament:
- Hunter Breault, pitcher, Oregon (Kamehameha): Breault made 14 appearances for the Ducks in the regular season, all one inning each, accumulating a 4.70 ERA. In his lone appearance in regionals, Breault tossed 1.1 scoreless innings with a strikeout against LSU in a 4-1 loss on Sunday. The Ducks were eliminated with a 9-8 loss to the Tigers on Monday night. Oregon is coached by Mark Wasikowski, who played for Hawaii in 1990 before finishing up his college career at Santa Ana College and Pepperdine.
- Vince Reilly, pitcher, Grand Canyon (University of Hawaii): Reilly, who was Hawaii’s closer in 2020 before transferring to GCU, made four appearances for the Antelopes in the 2021 regular season and had a 3.24 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched. In Friday’s regional opener against Arizona, Reilly allowed two runs and three hits with two strikeouts against the Wildcats in a 12-6 loss.
- Kyson Donahue, infielder, Arizona (Punahou): Donahue has appeared sparingly for the Wildcats this season, going 1-for-4 in 11 total games so far.
- Javyn Pimental, pitcher, Arizona (Kamehameha): Pimental has not registered any statistics for the 2021 season.
- Jordan Donahue, infielder, Oregon State (Damien): Donahue has not appeared in any games for the Beavers in 2021.
- The youngest coach with Hawaii ties in the NCAA Tournament is Dallas Baptist volunteer assistant Noah Shackles, a 2015 Mid-Pacific alum who graduated from William Jessup in 2019. DBU advanced to the Super Regionals, where it will face the winner of Tuesday morning’s Virginia-Old Dominion final. Shackles, the 2015 Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year, was also the ace pitcher of the 2010 Waipio Little League team that were runners-up in the Little League World Series.