By Paul Arnett
Paul Ah Yat doesn’t want to look too far down the road for fear of what might not be waiting for him.
Since transferring here from the University of California in 1993, the fifth-year senior for the University of Hawaii baseball team has never pitched in the postseason parade.
Chances are, that opportunity will pass him by for the last time. Entering the weekend series with Cal State-Sacramento, Hawaii is in fifth place of the West Division, some 51/2 games off the pace set by Cal State-Northridge.
But because the Rainbows have 18 Western Athletic Conference games remaining over the last month of the season, Ah Yat isn’t giving up hope just yet.
“To be honest, we aren’t even thinking about it,” Ah Yat said earlier this week. “That’s the hope of all the seniors, and everybody else, that we’ll go to a regional.
“But what we have to do is play hard every game, one game at a time. It’s not impossible. That’s why we’re not thinking about not going because we still could.”
For that to happen, the Rainbows are going to have to play with a measure of consistency that has eluded them the past three seasons.
At times, Hawaii can compete with the likes of Stanford and UCLA. But the Rainbows also can lose to teams such as UH-Hilo and Lewis-Clark State of the NAIA.
After last Friday’s gut-wrenching defeat to the Warriors, a frustrated Ah Yat and Michael Dartt were involved in a brief skirmish that resulted in Ah Yat’s suspension.
“I don’t really have a comment on that,” Ah Yat said. “That’s something the coaching staff should talk about.”
The co-captain wasn’t so reticent in a pair of team meetings that followed the incident. Ah Yat did his part to clear the air.
That doesn’t mean the Rainbows are going to win from here on in, but Ah Yat does guarantee the intensity level will be at full volume – win, lose or draw.
“I believe there aren’t going to be any gray areas with this team,” Ah Yat said. “Our team is going to be in every game from now on.
“I don’t know if the meetings helped. I just know we feel like a team. We’re going to win together and we’re going to lose together.
“No more finger pointing. With a team, there’s got to be trust. I know I trust everyone is going to go out and play hard. The intensity we had Saturday and Sunday is going to be there.”
With Paul, you get a leader.
Les Murakami, UH head baseball coach
Intensity has never been a problem for Ah Yat, but consistency has. Much like his team, when Ah Yat is good, he’s very, very good. But when he’s bad, he’s horrid.
Take the Northridge series as an example.
In a rain-delay game, Ah Yat blew a three-run lead in a devastating 4-3 loss to the Matadors. But 30 minutes later, he pitched four perfect innings before the rains came once more.
This season, he is 6-4 with an ERA of 5.00. In his two previous seasons, Ah Yat went 6-4 with an ERA of 4.72.
One weekend he can be great, such as the complete-game 2-1 victory at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo last month. The next weekend he can give up eight runs in six innings as he did in a key loss to Fresno State.
“If I knew the answer as to why I do that, I wouldn’t be doing it,” Ah Yat said, then smiled. “I know I felt badly about letting down my teammates in that first game at Northridge.
“It gave me the drive to pitch well in the next game. But I think we have the tendency to play well together and to play poorly together.
“Obviously, it starts with the pitcher. But a lot of times I look good because of our great defense or timely hits.
“One person doesn’t win or lose a game.”
Ah Yat isn’t sure what the future holds after all the wins and losses are done.
Like anybody else at this level, the 6-foot-1, 196-pounder would like to keep going.
He wasn’t drafted last year, but because he’s left-handed, Ah Yat might be given the opportunity to pitch professionally. He has some pretty good numbers.
For the season, Ah Yat has struck out 63 batters in 72 innings. He also has yielded 28 walks, 81 hits and 51 runs.
“With Paul, you get a leader,” UH head coach Les Murakami said. “If he keeps the ball down and mixes speeds, he can be effective. What he lacks is an out-pitch, like Mark Johnson’s fastball.”
For now, Ah Yat isn’t concerning himself with life after UH. There is still a month left and a chance the Rainbows can play on later in May.
“I still believe this is the best place to play baseball,” Ah Yat said. “Our crowds may be smaller than they’ve been, but it makes me feel good to see them up there supporting us.
“Hopefully, we can come up with some victories for them but even if we don’t, we’re going to be a better team mentally than we have been.”