In a meaningless late-May game, between two teams with sub-.500 records, UC Irvine junior Keston Hiura still finished his season, and maybe his college career, in a spectacularly fitting way.
Hiura, a Valencia High graduate, reeled off five hits in his team’s 11-9 home loss to UC Davis on Saturday, finishing the 2017 season with the highest batting average (.442) and on-base percentage (.567) in all of NCAA Division 1.
It was fitting, too, then, that Wednesday he was named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s top amateur ball player, and Thursday he was selected as a first-team All-American by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
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“It’s definitely an honor to be in this position,” Hiura told The Signal. “There are a lot of great players on that (Golden Spikes) list and many of them are my friends that I played with on Team USA and other programs as well.”
In three seasons at Irvine, Hiura has never hit lower than .330. He’s posted at least 41 RBIs in each campaign, and he hit a career-high eight home runs in 2017.
He is widely considered a first-round pick as a second baseman/outfielder in this year’s MLB Draft, which starts on June 12.
The biggest question hanging over him, it seems, is an elbow injury that kept him from playing the field this season.
The ailment certainly didn’t impact his hitting, for which he was named the Big West Conference Player of the Year. In the process, he broke UCI’s single-season batting record previously set by Tom Spence (.403) in 1971 and beat out Morehead State’s Eli Boggess (.425) for the best Division 1 average in the country.
“That wasn’t something I was really sure about until the last day,” Hiura said. “But it’s definitely something that I worked hard toward.
“… To look back and see where I started and where I am now (in my) third year at UCI, it’s definitely something that’s going to stick with me the rest of my life. Something I’ll never forget.”
The Golden Spikes Award will announce its finalists on June 14, with the winner announced on June 29.
Hiura is one of 25 semifinalists. You can vote here.