Sports

Moody Saves the Day in Vulcans’ Win Over APU

March 9, 2016, 1:29 PM HST
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University of Hawai'i at Hilo pitcher David Moody. UH-Hilo photo.

University of Hawai’i at Hilo pitcher David Moody. UH-Hilo photo.

Under the pressure of close games as of late, the University of Hawai’i at Hilo bullpen has largely struggled to keep its team in each outing.

David Moody set out to change that on Tuesday. His six-and-a-third innings of relief helped keep UH-Hilo in the game, and coupled with an offense that converted key opportunities, the Vulcans earned a 7-5 victory over Azusa Pacific University, claiming the final game of a four game PacWest Conference series. The previous three games were won by the Cougars.

UH-Hilo (3-7 overall, 2-6 PacWest) was in a hole early, thanks to a three-run double by Cam Bennett in the second inning. The Vulcans got one of those runs back in the bottom of the same inning with an RBI single from Edison Sakata, but Azusa Pacific continued to threaten in the next inning, scoring a run on a sacrifice fly to right field by Steven Garrett.

Morgan West, UH-Hilo’s starting pitcher, had already given up seven hits and thrown 71 pitches and wasn’t able to get out of the third inning, so Moody, who took the loss in relief in game two of the series, was called on to find a way out of the inning with his team down 4-2.

“I was trying to save him for the next series, but you know, we go game-by-game and I said that if he could give us three [innings], that would be great,” said UH-Hilo head coach Kallen Miyataki.

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Initially, three innings seemed like a stretch, especially after a walk to the first batter he faced, Zach Taylor. He bounced back with a strikeout of Bennett, leaving the bases loaded.

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From there, he settled down. He allowed one run on six hits in relief, striking out four and walking one batter. He did plunk three other hitters, but he found his way out of traffic and stranded eight batters during his time on the mound.

Unlike in previous nights, UH-Hilo’s bats came alive, answering every challenge issued by Azusa Pacific. After Moody stranded the bases loaded in the visiting half of the third, the Vulcans tied the game. Nate Green hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Jacob Grijalva, and Sean Nearhoof singled to center field, bringing home Phillip Steering to even the game at 4-4 after three innings.

Michael Shaw (0-1) relieved Azusa Pacific starter Michael Fairchild in the fourth inning and immediately ran into trouble. He walked Edison Sakata to start the frame out, and then committed a throwing error when he tried to start a double play at second base. Two batters later, Grijalva knocked Sakata home on a ground ball out to second base to give UH-Hilo a 5-4 lead.

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Another Azusa Pacific reliever, Royal Bradley, faced trouble in the sixth inning, allowing a pair of hits to Green and Jaron Manago. Sakata’s sacrifice fly to right field scored Green to extend the lead to 6-4.

Moody (2-2) gave up a pair of hits with two out in the sixth inning, the latter from Michael Staudinger driving in Adrian Tovalin to push Azusa Pacific back within a run at 6-5. From there, Moody started to see the finish line on his long relief outing.

“Truthfully, in the seventh inning, I felt like I was losing it,” Moody said. “I talked to coach, talked to Sean [Nearhoof], and Sean was like ‘I want him in there.’ If they wanted me in there, I was gonna go back in there.”

“I said [to Moody] ‘Do you want the game?’ and he said yes, so I said ‘Okay, then finish it,’ and I wasn’t gonna take it away from him,” said Miyataki. “He earned it. He deserved it.”

Azusa Pacific got a double in each of the seventh and eighth innings, but Moody stranded each of those runners on base. His offense gave him some wiggle room in the bottom of the eighth, pushing home a run on a single by Grijalva to score Nearhoof to extend the lead to 7-5.

The ninth inning wasn’t easy for Moody. He allowed a leadoff single to Garrett, but followed that with a 4-6-3 double play, started by a sliding grab by Manago at second base.

“That was the greatest, especially after we boot one ball in the infield and we come back and get a double play immediately,” Moody said. “I love seeing that. I love seeing mistakes made up by the rest of the team. Everybody’s picking each other up.”

Moody plunked Luke Huerta with a pitch to keep the final frame alive, but another sliding stop by Manago on a ground ball from Taylor ended the game.

UH-Hilo pounded out 11 hits, with three of them coming from Steering, who had a triple in the eighth inning. Grijalva and Green each picked up two hits, and Grijalva and Sakata drove in two runs to snap the Vulcans’ six-game losing streak.

Azusa Pacific (7-10, 3-1) outhit the home team 13-11, but stranded 12 runners on base. Staudinger batted 3-for-5 for the Cougars, while Adrian Tovalin, Pablo O’Connor, and Garrett each picked up two hits.

Next up for UH-Hilo is a four-game series with Point Loma Nazarene. A twin-bill is scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m., followed by a series ending doubleheader at 4 p.m. on Saturday. All games are played at Wong Stadium.

Azusa Pacific 031 001 000 – 5 13 3

Hawai’i-Hilo 022 110 10x – 7 11 1

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