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College Baseball Countdown: 56 Days to Go- Keston Hiura

Keston HiuraThe formula for UC-Irvine baseball under head coach Mike Gillespie is well-established at this point.

The Anteaters are going to pitch, pitch, and pitch some more, and on offense, they are going to scratch across runs by moving runners over, stealing bases, and taking advantage of mistakes by the opposition. Certainly, they’ve never been the type of offense that you expected to put up runs in bunches.

No matter your thoughts on that approach, you can’t really argue with the results. The team has been to five regionals, three super regionals, and the College World Series in 2014 under Gillespie. They’ve also produced a number of top-flight pitchers along the way, including Scott Gorgen, Eric Pettis, Christian Bergman, Daniel Bibona, Andrew Thurman, and Andrew Morales, to name a few.

The 2015 season was a little bit different, though, in that the UCI offense improved significantly and even flashed some impressive power, led by freshman Keston Hiura. Certainly he had some help throughout the lineup, but it’s not overstating it to say that his presence really changed the complexion of their offensive attack.

In his debut season, he hit .330/.392/.520 with 18 doubles, 7 home runs, and 52 RBI. Those numbers are fantastic when taken with no context, but when you look at those numbers next to the power production of the 2014 UCI offense, they look even more impressive.

His home run total was more than half of the total put up by the entire team in 2014 (12) and his RBI total was eight more than any 2014 hitter had. From a full team perspective, his contributions played a big role in helping raise the team’s slugging percentage by nearly 50 points. At the end of the season, he was understandably a consensus Freshman All-American.

In a year where the UC-Irvine pitching staff was not a classic UC-Irvine staff, this uptick in production across the board was very much welcomed.

Going into 2016, the UCI offense looks poised to keep up the pace they set last season. Hiura will obviously return for his sophomore season, as will Mitchell Holland (.325, 5, 35) for his senior campaign. Mikey Duarte (.345, 17 doubles) provides quality gap power and exceptional discipline at the plate, and Andrew Martinez (.224, 8, 23) provides some pop and could become a star in the lineup if he becomes a more well-rounded hitter.

Hiura, though, was the brightest star in the Anteaters’ order, and should be just that once again in the coming season.

Joe Healy was first introduced to college baseball when he grew up watching the likes of Jeff Niemann, Philip Humber, and Wade Townsend pitch for Rice University. To say it was love at first sight would be an understatement. That love only grew as he went off to college at Sam Houston State University, where he practically lived at Don Sanders Stadium watching his Bearkats under the direction of the legendary Mark Johnson. He holds a B.A. in political science from SHSU and is working toward his Masters in Public Administration from SIU-Edwardsville in Edwardsville, Illinois.