Grand Canyon Powers Past UHH in PWC Baseball Series Opener
Grand Canyon University’s found the right mix of power and pitching Friday night in an 8-5 victory over the University of Hawai`i at Hilo in the opening game of a four-game PacWest baseball series at Wong Stadium.
The offensive power came from twelve hits, four of them for extra bases. Derek Mendoza extended his team-high hitting streak to 13 games with a 3-for-4 effort, including a double and 3 runs batted in. Michael Pomeroy, who now his a six game hitting stretch, went 2-for-3 with a triple, a stolen base, and an RBI.
Meanwhile, the Grand Canyon bullpen provided a bit of power as well in their solid relief effort. Malcolm Purdy picked up his first win of the season with an inning of relief. Despite hitting two batters, he did not allow any runs to cross.
Hard-throwing lefty Brandon Bonilla pitched the next two-and-two third innings of work and allowed only one hit with five strikeouts and a pair of walks. Mark Jarrett, GCU’s closer, picked up the final four outs.
Grand Canyon (13-5, 8-1 PacWest) opened the scoring with a big third inning against UHH starter Dane Kinoshita. Kyle Raidy led the inning off with a double and moved to third on a fielding error by left fielder Greg Cleary. Two batters later, Seth Fretheim dropped a soft bunt up the first base line, scoring Raidy on an infield single. Pomeroy came up next and laced a base hit into right field. The ball rolled by Austin Cusack and got all the way to the wall. Pomeroy was credited with an RBI triple. Mendoza, the team’s leading hitter and run producer, got his 21st RBI with a double up the right field line, scoring Pomeroy to give the Antelopes a 3-0 lead.
In the fourth, Mendoza came back to the plate with the bases loaded and sent a single into center field, scoring Raidy and Brian Kraft to make the score 5-0. That hit ended the outing for Kinoshita, who pitched three-and-two-thirds innings, allowing five runs, three of them earned, on eight hits with three strikeouts and three walks. He took the loss, falling to 1-3 on the season.
The Vulcans rallied against GCU starter Jorge Perez in the bottom half of the frame. With two on and one out, Brad Fairweather singled to right field, scoring Samuel Kim. Grand Canyon right fielder Kraft struggled to field the ball in right, allowing it to go to the wall. That error brought Tyler Nitahara home from first base and put Fairweather at third base with the Vulcans down 5-2. The next batter, Will Cleary, singled to center field to bring Fairweather in, making the score 5-3 in favor of the visitors.
UH Hilo (5-18-1, 5-12-1 PWC) tied the game in the fifth inning, but the way the inning ended, or didn’t, created controversy. The Vulcans got the first two men on base when Kim reached on a throwing error by shortstop Paul Panaccone, allowing Keenan Nishioka to score, cutting the deficit to 5-4. Steffen Miner was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and GCU coach Andy Stankiewicz called on Purdy to get all three outs in the frame.
Purdy faced Tyler Nitahara with the bases loaded and forced a ground ball to second baseman Fretheim. He flipped the ball to shortstop Panaccone to get the first out, and then they caught Kim in a rundown between second and third for the second out. Austin Cusack scored.
What happened next spurred a nearly 15 minute delay. After Kim was tagged out in the rundown, Fretheim threw over to first base where the runner was standing idly by. A tag was applied on the runner near first base, and the inning was presumed over on a triple play. However, UHH coach Joey Estrella argued the call, even as UHH’s defense was on the field to start the second inning. Umpires eventually brought Nitahara back to first base, signaling that he was not tagged out, but that another base runner who was standing around after being retired was tagged out instead. Stankiewicz argued the call, which lengthened the delay, but would not get it changed, giving UHH an extra chance to score in the fifth.
Purdy came back out and hit Fairweather with a 3-2 pitch to extend the inning even longer, but got a first pitch groundout from Will Cleary to keep the score tied at five going into the sixth.
UHH reliever Seamus Yoneshige ran into trouble in the very next half-inning, allowing three consecutive batters to reach base, two on walks, to load the bases with one out. GCU catcher Steven Swingle came up and grounded a ball off of the glove of first baseman Nishioka. The ball trickled to second baseman Will Cleary, who threw it back to Nishioka to record the sure out. Fretheim, however, scored from third to give the lead back to Grand Canyon, 6-5.
Patrick Fletcher came in to relieve Yoneshige and couldn’t quickly get the Vulcans out of the inning. He allowed an RBI single to Brandon Smith, scoring Pomeroy to extend the GCU lead to 7-5.
In the eighth, Flether allowed a two out double to Steven Swingle, who then scored on Garrett Jefferies’ RBI base hit to push the lead to 8-5. The Vulcans had the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning, but Jarrett came in to induce a pop up from Kim to second baseman Fretheim to end the threat.
Nishioka, a graduate of Hilo High School, collected three hits in five at-bats and scored a run. John Abreu, Nitahara, and Fairweather each picked up two hits. Abreu extended his hitting streak to seven games.
UHH’s bullpen provided mixed results. Yoneshige, making his first relief appearance of the season, allowed two runs on a hit over two innings. He walked four batters and struck out another. Fletcher pitched the next two-and-a-third innings, allowing a run on three hits and two strikeouts. Freshman Tyler Takata pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
The next two games of the four game series will be played Saturday afternoon at Wong Stadium, beginning at 1:00 p.m. Both games will be seven inning contests. The final game of the series, a nine inning affair, will be played Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
Grand Canyon 000 320 010 – 8 12 4
Hawai`i Hilo – 000 320 000 – 5 11 4
Tie to be completed
Joey Estrella said Friday morning on ESPN Radio’s “The Josh Pacheco Show” that his Vulcans will complete the tie game against Dixie State at Cal Baptist University during their next road trip. They will also make up the seven-inning game that was not played Monday because of heavy rain.
The series will resume on Wednesday, March 27th. According to Dixie State’s website, the games will be played at 11:00 a.m. Hawai`i time, or 3:00 p.m. Mountain. UH Hilo has yet to officially announce the resumption of the series.
Estrella said that the conversation was initiated by DSU athletic director Jason Boothe, who realized that both teams will be playing in California near the same time, with UHH on the road facing Azusa Pacific and Cal Baptist. Estrella noted that his team had an off day planned before traveling back to Hawai`i.
Dixie State will head to Cal Baptist to finish the games before traveling to the Azusa Pacific campus to open a series against the Cougars.