Hawai’i Bats Wake Up in Finale Against Hilo
After a disappointing showing on opening night at Wong Stadium, the University of Hawai’i baseball team was determined to completely flip the script in the final game of a two-game series with the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.
Hawai’i pounded out 20 hits, a lot more than the two they got on Saturday, and fended off a late UH-Hilo rally to win 11-9 in front of a smaller Sunday crowd of 638 at Wong Stadium.
Before the clock even struck announced first pitch time at 1 p.m., Hawai’i was already putting its aluminum stamp on the baseball. Matt LoCoCo took David Moody’s second pitch of the game into deep right-center field for a triple and scored two batters later on Eric Ramirez’s RBI base knock to left field. After a Josh Rojas single, designated hitter Alex Sawelson drove in two with a single to left field, and two batters later, Jonny Weeks pushed a base hit through the middle of the diamond into center field, scoring Sawelson to make the score 4-0.
Moody (0-1) couldn’t get out of the first frame, allowing four runs on five hits with a walk.
The run barrage continued in the fourth against UH-Hilo southpaw Jordan Kumasaka when Ramirez brought home freshman Kekai Rios and Jacob Sheldon-Collins with a base hit to extend the lead to 6-0.
“They answered the challenge from last night because they didn’t respond well to a very good pitcher,” said veteran Hawai’i coach Mike Trapasso. “Their pride was a little hurt, so we came out and were more aggressive and they were focusing more on technique.”
In the next inning, Hilo High graduate Chayce Ka’aua, a defensive replacement at catcher because Rios fell ill, singled into center field to bring Alan Baldwin home. That chased Eric Vega, the third of eight UH-Hilo pitchers that took to the mound. Morgan West came in and allowed Ka’aua to steal second base. Ka’aua later scored on Sheldon-Collins’ RBI single to right field, making the score 8-1 halfway through.
UH-Hilo (1-1) did not fold at that point. After scoring on Hawai’i starter Kyle Von Ruden in the fourth, the Vulcans closed the gap in a hurry in the fifth. Center fielder Michael Jenkerson dropped a squeeze bunt down the first base line to score Phillip Steering. Two batters later, Kea’au alum Jonathan Segovia doubled to left field to score Edison Sakata and Jenkerson. Jacob Grijalva brought in Segovia with a base hit to make the score 8-5 through five innings.
Both teams plated runs in the seventh inning. Hawai’i got one more in the eighth on Weeks’ sacrifice fly to right, scoring Sawelson, who reached on a leadoff double, to push Hawai’i out to a 10-7 lead.
The Vulcans got as close as they had been all game in the eighth. Catcher Sean Nearhoof singled, and pinch runner Marcus Calamese later scored on a wild pitch by reliever Matt Valencia. Kyle Yamada’s sacrifice fly brought in BJ Freitas, who was hit by a pitch as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, making the score 11-9.
Hawai’i (1-1) had a chance to push ahead in the ninth when Eric Ramirez reached on an error by Grijalva at second base, but he was thrown out at third by Jenkerson on Marcus Doi’s double. Then, with two out, Rojas drilled his pitch from reliever Deric Valoroso Jr. into right-center field, but Jenkerson tracked it down for an amazing diving catch to keep the Vulcans within reach.
Cody Culp (1) would not let UH-Hilo pull off a miracle comeback, however. He set down all four batters he faced, including three flyouts in the ninth, to shut the door on the Vulcans and earn the save.
Kyle Von Ruden (1-0) picked up the win, allowing five runs on six hits in five innings with a strikeout. He didn’t allow a hit until two outs in the fourth inning.
“He has been what we saw in the first four innings really all spring for us, and even in the fall,” Trapasso said. “He was the exact same way, throwing five innings and 50 pitches in a scrimmage a week ago.
“Today, once he hit the 60 pitch mark, he just hit a wall and he just fatigued. He lost it quick, and too quick for us to get anybody loose [in the bullpen] because he was doing so well,” Trapasso continued on Von Ruden, who threw 63 pitches. “I was hoping he could give us 70-75 pitches.”
Every Hawai’i position player picked up at least one hit, including Ka’aua, who batted 3-for-3 in front of his family and friends with a pair doubles. Sheldon-Collins tallied four hits in six at-bats with a run scored.
“It was fun to get the juices flowing, and credit to Hilo. Those guys were scrapping and scratching and clawing the whole game,” Trapasso said.
Segovia, Grijalva, and Jenkerson each paired hits for Hawai’i-Hilo, who doesn’t play again until March 1 in a doubleheader at home against PacWest Conference newcomer Concordia University.
Hawai’i 400 220 210 – 11 20 0
Hawai’i-Hilo 000 140 220 – 9 12 3