Hawaii Grown Report: 'Iolani alum has Davidson on brink of an NCAA berth

·4 min read

May 25—For more than three months, the Davidson baseball team has done nothing but win.

The Wildcats are 42-11. They haven't lost a single series. They went 20-4 in the Atlantic 10 Conference, finishing one game ahead of VCU to claim the regular-season title.

All of that success, and yet, if they can't come through and win the conference tournament this weekend, the season will be over, just like that.

Seems like a lot of pressure, right ?

"You know, there could be, but our coaches have talked to us over the past couple of days and told us not to change anything, " junior shortstop Jacob Hinderleider said in a phone interview Tuesday. "There's definitely a lot of confidence going on with us. We've already played all of the teams in the tournament and didn't lose a series."

Hinderleider, a 2019 'Iolani alumnus, is one of six players who hit over.300 during the regular season for the Wildcats, who open the double-elimination tournament today against No. 4 seed George Mason.

Davidson set program marks for best overall record and best conference record in a season. It's also the first time the Wildcats won the regular season in the Atlantic 10.

Despite the record numbers, Davidson's RPI entering the week was in the mid-60s, making an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament unlikely.

"We've got a lot more work to do, " Hinderleider said. "(The committee ) would probably take a higher-end Power Five team over us if we don't win the tournament."

Anything can happen in the double-elimination tournament, but the Wildcats have been hot all season.

Hinderleider has been a major part of the team's success, putting up career-best numbers across the board.

One year after hitting.212 while making 47 starts, primarily at second base, Hinderleider has moved to shortstop and started all 53 games, batting.335 with 14 doubles, 11 homers, 54 RBIs and 51 runs scored.

"We had pretty high expectations coming into this year, so it's good to see it working out, " Hinderleider said. "This season has been a culmination of having fun and taking advantage of the opportunity we have of being able to play."

That opportunity was taken away when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

Hinderleider was sent home after starting all 16 games as a true freshman.

Losing the chance to play the rest of that season has stuck with him ever since.

"That really put a lot of things into perspective for me, " Hinderleider said. "I hadn't really experienced any adversity like that. Seeing the seniors who, for a lot of them, that was their last season of baseball ever, getting sent home like that showed us younger guys what kind of opportunity we have to play baseball and how special it is."

Davidson is a private liberal arts college in North Carolina more than 4, 500 miles from Hawaii, and is best known to many for being the school Stephen Curry took to the Elite 8 in 2008 before getting drafted by the Golden State Warriors.

Hinderleider's journey to the East Coast began when he went to a baseball showcase in Florida over winter break while in high school as a sophomore and ended up on a travel team in Atlanta for two summers.

During his time with the travel team, he went to a camp hosted by Davidson and earned a scholarship offer.

"I decided early on that I really wanted to play college baseball and (Davidson ) was coming off that Super Regional run they made in 2017, so I had been paying attention to them, " Hinderleider said. "Once they offered me, I was really interested. The school is really small and kind of like 'Iolani where everyone knows everyone."

Hinderleider said he also felt like he had a chance to start as a freshman, which was important. He did, only to have the pandemic cut the season short.

Now, just two short years later, he's on a team he believes is good enough to get to an NCAA Regional and possibly make a run like they did in 2017.

"It's been a lot of fun this year, and that honestly has been our main focus, " Hinderleider said. "From the start we knew we had some talent and some experience on this year's team and our focus going into every day is honestly to enjoy the time with our teammates.

"Seeing what COVID did and having that take away our season has made us enjoy being around each other, and I think it's allowed us to play loose and confident, and it's why even in the games we've lost, we've felt like we had a chance to win."

JACOB HINDERLEIDER—School : Davidson—Class : Junior—Position : Shortstop—High school : 'Iolani (2019 )