Infielder Dustin Demeter’s return keeps University of Hawaii baseball team’s lineup intact

Infielder Dustin Demeter is set to return to the University of Hawaii baseball team as a fifth-year junior.

That means every starting position player from the pandemic-abbreviated 2020 season will be back for a hana hou performance.

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“I’m really excited to come back, for sure, ” Demeter said. “It’s a great group of guys we have out there.”

The Rainbow Warriors were 11-6, including a road victory over second-ranked Vanderbilt, when the season was halted in March because of the pandemic. The NCAA granted a do-over, allowing spring-sport athletes to retain this year’s class standing for another year. That also gave Demeter, as a draft-eligible player, the option of pursuing a pro career or returning to UH.

Demeter was not picked in last month’s Major League Baseball Draft for first-year players, a selection process that was reduced from 40 rounds to five rounds this year. He has received interest from teams, but has yet to be offered a free-agent contract. The deadline is Aug. 1 to receive and accept free-agent offers, but Demeter has made plans to return to UH. He is a few credits short of earning a bachelor’s degree.

“Obviously, I want to play pro baseball but it’s a great situation to go back to (at UH ), ” Demeter said. “We’ve got a good coaching staff and all the players. … I’m good to go back to UH. I’m stoked. I’m excited to get back out there.”

Demeter was the starting shortstop when he hit.286 and led the ’Bows with 29 RBI as a freshman in 2017. The following season, he moved to second, where he hit.279. But he missed the entire 2019 season after undergoing surgery on both hips. His full recovery was punctuated in the 2020 opener when he smacked a walk-off, two-run homer against Hawaii Hilo. Demeter, who started 17 games at third, was the ’Bows’ second-leading run producer (13 RBI ) when the season stopped.

“It was tough, ” Demeter said of the season’s abrupt end. “We were really good. The encouraging part is all the guys we have coming back. We lost a couple arms, but our entire position corps is coming back. I think we’re going to be good. A big plus for coming back is I think we’re going to be good again. I’m excited.”

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Demeter, who grew up in Santa Barbara, Calif., had training sessions at a relative’s ranch when he received a call from Isaac Coffey, an infielder /pitcher with Oral Roberts. There was a roster opening in the Sandlot League in Tulsa, Okla. Each team plays two doubleheaders a week. Demeter and his younger brother are teammates.

“There are good players out here, ” Demeter said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

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