The University of Hawaii (1-2) baseball squad will continue its early-season home stand on Thursday, opening a four-game series against San Francisco (3-1). Thursday and Friday contests in the series will begin at 6:35 p.m., while the Saturday and Sunday games are slated for 1:05 p.m. starts.
Sophomore catcher Kekai Rios is confident the ‘Bows are onto something. The Kamehameha graduate drove in two runs and allowed just one stolen base against North Carolina State University.
“I was kind of nervous with a lot of new pitchers coming out and pitching for the first time, but guys came out and threw strikes, especially our starters,” he said. “That’s exactly what we needed out of them, not allowing guys to get on base made my job so much easier this weekend, not having many guys run at all. So when the game time came on, everyone was chasing the same thing. Everyone wanted to win.”
The Rainbow Warriors will meet the Dons on the diamond for the 31st time, coming into the week with a 17-13 UH advantage in the all-time series. The programs met on a neutral field last season at St. Mary’s in Goleta, Calif. while the Dons’ field was under renovation – the Rainbow Warriors came away with the 2-1 series victory by scores of 11-3, 4-5 and 9-7.
Last year’s series was a very productive offensive outing for several returning Rainbow Warriors, paced by sophomore catcher Kekai Rios, who went 7-for-13 (.539) against the Dons, scoring six runs. In addition, Eric Ramirez was 5-for-13 with three runs and four RBI, Johnny Weeks was 4-for-10 with four runs and Josh Rojas went 4-for-13 with two runs and two RBI.
In addition, opening up last year’s series against the Dons, Brendan Hornung earned his first collegiate win, throwing seven innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits, while striking out four.
The Dons opened hot this year against Northern Colorado, earning three wins and were working on a fourth before the finale was called for lack of light. That matchup was picked up in a 2-2 tie in the ninth inning, on Tuesday – the UNC Bears pulled ahead in the 10th to break the sweep. A known commodity in college baseball, the Dons have had a couple of sup-par seasons, including a 22-34 record in 2016.
The Dons returned their top 8-of-9 hitters, including their three leaders, paced by junior first baseman Ross Puskarich, who topped the team a year ago with a .331 average and five home runs, recording 29 RBI and 21 runs. Not far behind was senior third baseman Allen Smoot, who held the team’s second-highest average at .321, pacing the team with 33 RBI and 14 doubles, also crossing the plate for 22 runs. Rounding out the top three returners, senior center fielder Matt Sinatro batted .305 with a team-leading 40 runs, aided by a .427 on-base percentage and 26 stolen bases.
Unsurprisingly, Puskarich topped USF last weekend, hitting 6-for-13 (.462) with four RBI and two runs. 16th-round draft pick Dominic Miroglio is back at behind the plate for USF, also hitting 6-for-13, tabbing three RBI and four runs. Smoot hit 4-for-12 with two doubles, accounting for five RBI and four runs against the Bears. Hitting 4-for-14, Sinatro also added four runs and three RBI. As a squad, USF batted .317 over the four-game set, averaging seven runs per outing.
The Dons pitching staff also held up against the Bears, finishing with a cumulative 3.65 ERA, however, UNC only hit .250 last season. Expected to kick off the USF pitching rotation against UH, junior right-hander Grant Goodman went 6.0 innings for a win vs. UNC, allowing two runs (one earned), while striking out four and walking two; last year he was 1-4 with a 13.02 ERA in 13 appearances. Coming up Friday, sophomore right-hander Thomas Ponticelli held a no decision after 5.0 innings against UNC, giving four earned runs on eight hits, striking out five and walking two; last year, he was 4-6 with a 5.94 ERA, striking out 44 in 73 innings. The Saturday starter, right-handed sophomore Daniel Slominski went 7.0 innings without a decision, allowing two runs on five hits, while striking out six; last year, he posted a 2.53 ERA at College of San Mateo. Rounding out the rotation, left-handed junior Sam Granoff went 5.0 innings for the win in his first game back from a 2016 season-ending injury, allowing four runs on four hits, striking out five and walking four.
The Rainbow Warriors battled through a tough series against the No. 6 NC State Wolfpack, showing strong, error-free appearances through the first two games of the series, but closing on an 8-1, one-hit loss last Sunday. On Saturday, UH showed its potential, going big against NCSU with an 11-hit, 8-3 victory.
Bainbridge Island, Wash. junior Dylan Vchulek made a strong debut, collecting hits in each outing for a 4-for-8 weekend with three walks, two runs and one RBI. Steady at first base, Ramirez hit .286 against NCSU, while outfielder Adam Fogel also debuted well, hitting 3-for-11 with two runs and an RBI.
The lone Rainbow Warriors returning starting pitcher, Hornung had as strong a start to the 2017 campaign as one could ask. The UH senior right-hander went 7.0 innings deep, allowing only two runs in the opener, tying a career-high nine strikeouts in the loss. Hornung will open up the UH rotation against USF on Thursday.
Coming into the two-slot on the mound for UH, left-hander Dominic DeMiero also came out dealing against the Wolfpack, debuting with a 7.0-inning, six-hit, winning performance after allowing only one run, striking out five with two walks. Again pitching third in the rotation, junior righty Neil Uskali threw well last week in spite of the outcome, going 5.0 innings against NCSU with one earned run on four hits, striking out four versus two walks. As coach Mike Trapasso continues to sort through 12 new pitchers on the staff, the fourth starter remains undetermined heading into Sunday versus San Francisco.
University of Hawai’i Games 4-7
What: Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (1-2) vs. San Francisco Dons (3-1)
When: Thursday, February 23, 6:35 p.m. HT
Friday, February 24, 6:35 p.m. HT
Saturday, February 25, 1:05 p.m. HT
Sunday, February 26, 1:05 p.m. HT
Where: Honolulu, O’ahu (Les Murakami Stadium)
Television: OC Sports For Game 1 on Thursday
Live Video Streaming: OC Sports (Game 1)
Radio: All games will be broadcast live on the radio with Jim Leahey and Scott Robbs covering each game on the call. ESPN Honolulu 1420 AM will air all four contests. Neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KHLO in Hilo, KKON in Kona and KTOH on Kaua’i.
Audio Webcast: www.ESPN1420am.com
Live Stats: Live in-game stats will be provided by Hawai’i Athletics throughout the series at the links listed below.
Promotions: Promotions: Fantastic Sams is the series sponsor and will award great prizes for each game. Sign up for your chance to win at each game of the series. Friday’s contest will be followed by an autograph session on the field. Little League teams are invited onto the field to stand alongside the UH baseball players for the National Anthem & Hawaii Pono’i prior to Saturday’s game (Check-in 30 min. prior to first pitch near the Big West Conference logo on the ground level). Throwback Thursday (Feb. 23) will feature discount tickets prices in the upper level (Adults – $5; Senior Citizen – $4; Youth (ages 4 to HS) – $3). Sunday Funday (Feb. 26): Ticket Package 1 – $25 for family of four (two adults and two youth); Ticket Package 2 – $40 (four adults). Each ticket package includes four (4) upper level tickets, four (4) hot dogs, and four (4) bottle soda/water (while supplies last). Tickets can be purchased by calling 944-2697 (option 2), walking up to the Les Murakami Stadium on game day or in advance at the Stan Sheriff Center Box Office.