After a slow offensive start to Saturday’s game three versus Santa Clara (9-12), the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (11-13) baseball team emerged as heroes, completing a ninth-inning comeback past the Broncos, closing out the 3-2 win on a walk-off single by senior Alan Baldwin.
The Broncos didn’t make it easy, garnering an early lead which they defended into the final frame. Leading off the second, Jake Brodt put the Broncos provided the beginnings of that lead, as he barreled-up a home run beyond the left center wall for the 1-0 advantage. A second run scored in the third, as SCU converted a Tyler Meditz leadoff triple for the 2-0 edge.
Silenced completely for four innings, center fielder Matt LoCoco sparked the Rainbow Warriors with his and UH’s second hit of the night, a one-out triple skidding down the first base line into the right field corner. Third baseman Johnny Weeks scratched him across, cutting into the Broncos’ lead with a sacrifice fly.
The game would remain in stalemate to the final inning of regulation, as UH starter senior Alex Hatch settled in for the long haul of a career-best 7.1 inning performance before yielding to classmate Cody Culp to shut the door. Culp pitched UH out of a jam in the eighth and supplied three quick Santa Clara outs in the ninth.
After SCU star closer Max Kuhns shut down the Rainbow Warriors in the eighth, UH was faced with a final chance to cut into the 2-1 Broncos lead in the final frame. First baseman got UH started in the ninth with a leadoff single, but was wiped off the bases as SCU went for the lead runner during Marcus Doi’s sacrifice bunt attempt. Catcher Kekai Rios joined Doi on base as a hit batter, bringing up fifth-year senior right fielder Alan Baldwin with two outs.
It all came down to a pitcher’s count at 2-2 to Baldwin, who rose to the gut check, dropping a perfectly-placed RBI single into shallow right center, sending Doi to the plate. Going in for the ball, the SCU outfield misplayed the hit, as center fielder Kert Woods fielding error gave UH the chance for Rios to score the go-ahead run from first for the walk-off 3-2 victory and the series lead.
Culp (1-1) garnered the win after throwing 1.2 innings, allowing one hit with the strikeout. Across his 7.1 innings, Hatch allowed five hits and two runs, striking out four batters.
Kuhns (0-3) took the loss for Santa Clara after entering in pursuit of his seventh save. He went 1.2 innings with 2 runs allowed on two hits.
LoCoco was key for the Rainbow Warriors, hitting 2-for-4 with one run, becoming the first player to hit three triples in a season since 2012. Baldwin was 1-for-4 with the game-winning RBI, while Rios was 1-for-3 with one run.
The Rainbow Warriors and Broncos wrap up the series on Sunday at Les Murakami Stadium with first pitch slated for 1:05 p.m. Next week, UH will open up Big West Conference play with UC Irvine coming to town to close out the 18-game homestand.