MORAGA, Calif. – After holding a steady lead for six innings, the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors baseball (3-5) team succumbed to a ninth-inning San Francisco (1-7) comeback on the efforts of a flurry of Dons’ pinch hitters, who rallied for the 5-4 walk-off win.
The ‘Bows jumped out early and went right at San Francisco pitcher Chase Gardner, as the Dons walked consecutively center fielder Matt LoCoco and shortstop Jacob Sheldon-Collins to leadoff the opening stanza. Ramirez followed, ripping a ball into right center for the early lead, LoCoco coming in from second. Sheldon-Collins slid in for a second run on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Alan Baldwin.
The Dons evened the score in the bottom of the second, making the most of Beau Bozett’s reach on error, scratching him across on a sac bunt squeeze play, preceding Blake Valley’s RBI shot through the right side for the 2-2 tie.
Sheldon-Collins singled on the comeback ball off Gardner’s glove to become the third straight leadoff runner on base, making his way to third on Ramirez’ shot through the left side, scoring on an RBI double from right fielderAlex Fitchett. Baldwin expanded the lead to 4-2 on an RBI groundout, bringing Ramirez home.
The Rainbow Warriors’ opportunity to go for more was robbed by USF shortstop Niko Giarratano, who skied on possibly the defensive play of the game to snag a bases-loaded high line drive in the fourth from Fitchett, holding UH at four runs.
After giving some early hits, senior right-handed starter Kyle Von Ruden was dealing in the back end of Saturday’s contest, going over six innings without a run allowed. The Sacramento, Calif. native retired 19 of the final 21 batters he faced. Making the bid for his first career complete game, Von Ruden allowed a pair of hits in the ninth as he neared the century pitch count, pushing UH to go to the bullpen as USF threw a series of pinch hitters into the mix.
Entering in relief with two runners on base, right-hander Casey Ryan allowed a third consecutive single, with Bozett loading the bases. Pinch hitter Brady Bate trimmed the UH lead with a four-pitch RBI walk, prompting another pitching switch.
Left-hander Lawrence Chew assumed pitching duties and battled through a nine-pitch at-bat from USF catcher Ryan Matranga, who drove a full count, walk-off single to left field for two runs and the 5-4 ‘Bows loss.
Von Ruden went 8.1 innings with seven hits, two earned runs, no walks and two strikeouts. Ryan (0-1) took the loss for UH, logging 0.0 innings, allowing one hit and one walk. For USF, the Dons’ fifth pitcher, Scott Parker (1-1) claimed the win, pitching 1.0 innings with no hits or walks, allowing a runner on an error.
At the plate, Baldwin scored two runs for the ‘Bows on 1-for-2 hitting. Ramirez went 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI. Catcher Kekai Rios also hit 2-for-4 with a double.
The Rainbow Warriors return to action for the rubber game on Sunday at Louis Guisto Field on the campus of Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif. First pitch is slated for 1:00 p.m. PT (11:00 a.m. HT)