Defensive Errors Doom Vulcans in Fourteen Inning Thriller
The University of Hawai`i at Hilo baseball team was two strikes away from achieving a series split against the second best team in the PacWest Conference.
Instead, it left Wong Stadium late Saturday afternoon with a loss, thanks in part to five defensive errors, as UH-Hilo fell to Azusa Pacific 5-3 in 14 innings to close a four game conference series.
UH-Hilo (11-30 overall, 9-21 PacWest) took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning and got the first out of the frame before Joseph Daris singled to left field off of Sheldon Shishido. He wouldn’t stop there, as Harrison Guiol misplayed the ball in left, allowing the speedy Daris to take second base.
Shishido got the second out of the inning on a fly out from Mitch Dergazarian, but couldn’t close the deal after hitting Danny Gonzales with a pitch.
UH-Hilo interim head coach Kallen Miyataki decided to call on Seamus Yoneshige, Thursday’s losing pitcher, to try to close out the game. The left-handed pitcher couldn’t get it done, walking Ryan Santana to load the bases before Matt Kimmel hit a sharp grounder toward third baseman Jonathan James, who dove to knock it down in the infield, but couldn’t throw out Kimmel at first base to end the game. Daris scored to tie the game at 3-3.
The game stayed deadlocked at three, thanks in large part to Luis Gonzales, Azusa Pacific’s closer. He entered the game in the bottom of the tenth inning with Kyle Watase at second base to face pinch hitter Keenan Nishioka. Gonzales induced a towering fly out to right field to end the inning, keeping the game tied.
Gonzales retired nine batters in a row before allowing an infield single to Cole Nagamine in the thirteenth inning. For Nagamine, who pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot in the order because designated hitter BJ Freitas moved to second base earlier in the game, it was his first hit of the season in eight at-bats.
Jordan Murai entered the game to run for Nagamine and stole second base with Harrison Guiol at the plate, but a pop out in foul ground ended the brief threat.
Jeremy Dela Cruz took over on the mound in the fourteenth inning for UH-Hilo, the seventh pitcher to be used by Miyataki’s squad. After getting the first out, he allowed three straight singles to Blake James, Andrew Carrillo, and Daris. That brought up Dergazarian, who hit a fly ball out to right fielder Will Thayer, who moved back to his right to try to make the catch on a probable sacrifice fly. Thayer couldn’t squeeze it, however, and James scored on the error to put the Cougars up 5-4.
Thayer’s drop ended up being a big play, because Gonzales hit a fly ball to right against Jarin Kadooka in the next at-bat, but instead of it being an inning-ending out, Gonzales’ fly ball became a sacrifice fly, scoring Carrillo to give the Cougars a two run cushion.
Hunter Brown entered the game to try to pick up the save, but a one out single by Edison Sakata gave him an early exit. Seth Gill would come through for Azusa Pacific, getting Zachary Hamasaki and Freitas to ground out to shortstop Carrillo to end the game.
Both starting pitchers, Azusa Pacific’s Adam McCreery and UH-Hilo’s Jordan Kumasaka, pitched a solid game but did not factor in the decision.
Kumasaka was the first to exit the game after allowing the opening run of the game in the fifth inning when he allowed an RBI single by Daris, scoring Dusty Sanderson to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.
Kumasaka pitched five and two-thirds innings, allowing the unearned run on six hits with a walk.
McCreery ran into trouble in the seventh inning, loading the bases on a walk and two hit batters. He would be pulled for Josh Grajeda, who couldn’t keep the Vulcans off of the scoreboard. Jonathan James drove in two with a single to left center field to give the Vulcans the lead, and Sean Nearhoof brought in a run of his own with a single down the left field line to give UH-Hilo a two run cushion.
Before Azusa Pacific tied the game in the ninth, they cut into the lead in the eighth inning against Michael Slifer. Jordan Brower led the inning off with a deep double to left center field, and pinch runner Cam Bennett scored on a single by Sean Aspinall to get within a run.
Azusa Pacific (25-15, 18-10) picked up its hit production after being silenced by Jordan Kurokawa in game three of the series. The Cougars had 18 hits, matching the number they had in the first game of the set. Daris, Brower, and Kimmel each had three hits while Kimmel and Andy Bissel each had two.
James and Nearhoof had two hits each for the Vulcans, who were plagued defensively by five errors. Two of them were committed by shortstop Edison Sakata, while second baseman Ryan Fukunaga added another.
Martinez picked up the win for Azusa Pacific, improving his record to 3-1. He struck out three and allowed just an infield single in three and a third innings. Seth Gill picked up his first save of the season.
Jeremy Dela Cruz took the loss, falling to 3-7 on the year. He only picked up one out and allowed both go ahead runs in the fourteenth inning on three hits and a strikeout.
The Vulcans get some much needed rest before facing Hawai`i Pacific University in a six-game series beginning May 2 at Wong Stadium. Two of the six games will count toward PacWest play.
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