Turtle power: Kuhaulua does it all to earn JUCO MVP award
Rashaan “Turtle” Kuhaulua did a little of everything in Yavapai College’s six games and walked away with the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series Preston Walker Most Valuable Player Award on Saturday night.
As he had all through the tournament, the Roughriders’ starting third baseman played a key role in the teams’ 5-2 win over San Jacinto College-North in the championship game.
When San Jac lefty Colton Schmidt was shutting down the Roughriders’ lineup, it was Turtle who snapped Yavapai out of their shell with a solo home run to left field to cut the lead to 2-1.
But in the title game, it was Turtle’s defense that was just as big. When shortstop Ramsey Romano went to the bench with an injured left foot, Kuhaulua shifted over to short.
He made two putouts in the inning and another one in the seventh. Then in the eighth, he slid to his left and made a smooth pick and throw for the second out.
He was flawless in his four innings at shortstop.
“I just knew I had to step up for the team, there’s nothing that different between third and short,” the soft-spoken Kuhaulua said. “I think I played about two innings at short this year.”
In the tournament, Kuhaulua earned a save in his one pitching appearance and played well at third before taking over at shortstop Saturday night.
At the plate, the Kauai, Hawaii, native hit .455, scored nine runs and hit two home runs with seven RBI. His home run to get the Roughriders on the board in the title game energized the team.
“It kind of settled us in and got everyone else get some good at-bats,” Kuhaulua said.
He was truly the jack-of-all trades guy for the Roughriders all week.
Kuhaulua, a sophomore who transferred to Yavapai from San Jose State, said he just wanted to help the team.
“My coach gave me the opportunity to do what I could and I had to step up for the team. It feels great,” he said.
As a high school baseball star in Hawaii, Kuhaulua played against fellow Hawaiian Brock Ephan, the Roughriders’ first baseman.
Ephan said he had no doubt that Kuhaulua would be just fine at shortstop.
“I have the utmost confidence in that guy. I know what he can do. All those plays that you thought (were) amazing, that’s everyday for him,” Ephan said.
Kuhaulua was nearly speechless talking about the game and the tournament.
“Its amazing, I couldn’t have asked for anything better than this, couldn’t have asked for a better team, a better family and support system,” he said. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world right now.
“I don’t know if it can get better than this, I love this feeling right now.”