UHH Rallies to Win Home Baseball Opener Over PLNU
One quick burst of offense was all it took.
Trailing 3-0 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, the University of Hawai`i at Hilo baseball team sparked a four-run inning against the bullpen of Point Loma Nazarene, winning 4-3 in the home opener Monday at Wong Stadium.
The second scheduled game of Monday’s doubleheader was rained out.
Point Loma (11-7 overall, 4-1 PacWest) got seven strong innings out of freshman starter Kellen Sheppard, who allowed just three hits while walking two and striking out two injust 76 pitches. Head Coach Joe Schaefer turned to his bullpen and called on junior Mickey Dunleavy to hold on to the three-run advantage.
The right-handed Dunleavy started wildly, walking Samuel Kim on four pitches before allowing a single to BJ Freitas. Kyle Watase followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt on the left side of the diamond, which Dunleavy fielded cleanly. The pitcher was late in his throw to third base, loading the bases with no outs.
Kallen Miyataki, interim head coach of UH-Hilo, called on pinch-hitter Austin Cusack for his first at-bat of the season, and the senior delivered with a two-run single to slice the Sea Lions’ lead to 3-2.
Dunleavy was replaced by junior hurler Brett Carlile, and two batters later, catcher Sean Neahoof hit into a fielder’s choice toward Point Loma shortstop Clinton Harwick, allowing Watase to score and tying the game at 3-3.
UH-Hilo sophomore Keenan Nishioka yanked the next pitch into right field, scoring pinch-runner Harrison Guiel to put the Vulcans ahead 4-3.
A heavy downpour fell over Wong Stadium in the ninth inning as Point Loma tried to make a comeback against UH-Hilo closer Michael Slifer. Trey Hunt, who batted 3-for-4, and Tyler Hanzawa each singled into left field with one out in the final frame, and two batters later, Preston Sands walked to load the bases.
Slifer struggled to retire Ryan Garcia, the Sea Lions’ first baseman, as Garcia fouled off several pitches in the at-bat. Finally, under a driving rain, Garcia popped out to shallow center field to end the game.
UH-Hilo (3-6, 2-3) trotted junior starter Jeremy Dela Cruz to the mound, and the right-handed hurler quickly retired the first seven batters he faced in just 20 pitches. He soon found trouble in the fourth inning, when he allowed a pair of singles to Garcia and Tyler Nordgren to put runners at the corners with one out in the frame. Catcher AJ Derr dropped down a sacrifice bunt along the right side of the diamond, scoring Garcia to open the scoring at 1-0.
In the fifth, Point Loma left fielder Mike Marcoux singled and later moved to second base on a ground ball out from Hanzawa. Harwick came up next and sent the first pitch he saw into right field for an RBI single, extending the Sea Lions’ lead to 2-0.
Dela Cruz wouldn’t make it out of the fifth, allowing two earned runs on six hits with one strikeout. He threw just 55 pitches.
Senior Sheldon Shishido closed out the fifth and stranded a pair of runners on base. He ran into his own issues in the seventh after allowing a single to Hunt. Hanzawa reached on an error by Freitas, allowing Hunt to get to third base. Harwick followed with a fielder’s choice ground ball out, scoring Hunt to push Point Loma’s lead to 3-0.
After another single by Sands, Jarin Kadooka was called on to end the threat, and the junior from Kapolei did just that, striking out Garcia to start a double play with Sands caught trying to steal second base.
Bryce Shandro allowed a hit in the eighth inning but got a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. He picked up his first win of the season. Slifer recorded his second save.
Dunleavy fell to 0-1 with the loss. He allowed four runs and two hits with a walk without recording an out.
As soon as the game ended, umpires called for the tarp to be placed on the field. Over 30 minutes after the first game ended, the second game was postponed. It will be made up on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.
Games two and three of the series will be played Tuesday at Wong Stadium, starting with a nine-inning game at 4:00 p.m. A seven-inning game will follow at approximately 7:00 p.m.