RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A couple of huge swings of the bat made all the difference in Saturday’s University of Hawai’i baseball (21-12, 3-3 BWC) series-clinching victory over UC Riverside (12-18, 2-7 BWC). Home runs in the first and seventh gave UH all the cushion it needed, accounting for five runs in the 7-4 win at the Riverside Athletics Complex.
After UC Riverside knotted up the series on Friday, the Rainbow Warriors made an early bid for the series win. Freshman designated hitter Dustin Demeter got the Rainbow Warriors off on the right track, clocking a one-out single in the first. Third baseman Josh Rojas tacked up the first run for the ‘Bows, doubling deep down the right field line to send Demeter home.
After freshman Adam Fogel joined Rojas on base, first baseman Eric Ramirez broke the game open early, blasting a three-run homer down the right field line for the 4-0 advantage with his second long ball of the year.
Starter Neil Uskali kept the Highlanders off the board through the first three innings, but ran into some trouble in the middle innings. Back-to-back fourth-inning base hits put Casey Worden in position to score the first UCR run on a double play. Connor Cannon then trimmed the UH lead in half with a left field solo home run, putting the pressure on the ‘Bows.
After the opening stanza, the Rainbow Warriors struggled to add more hits to the pot, giving UCR an opportunity to creep back into the game. The Highlanders knotted the contest at 4-4 in the sixth, as Cannon launched his second bomb of the game, a two-run home run to left field.
Responding in short order, Ramirez led off the seventh with a walk, setting up right fielder Alex Fitchett for a clutch two-run homer to left field, off his former Oak Ridge high school teammate, Alex Fagalde.
With Hawai’i pulling ahead 6-4, Johnny Weeks followed up with a left field double, chasing off Fagalde for the day. Center fielder Dylan Vchulek capped off the Hawai’i scoring push with an RBI single to right field, rebuilding the UH lead at 7-4.
The Hawai’i bullpen took care of business across the final three frames, as Matt Richardson and Dylan Thomas combined for three scoreless innings, with Thomas earning his fourth save on 2.1 innings with three hits, no walks and one strikeout. Uskali (5-2) earned the victory, throwing 6.0 innings with four runs on nine hits, striking out four. Fagalde (5-2) was responsible for all seven runs and took the loss for UCR.
Fitchett and Ramirez were the highlight contributors in an eight-hit UH performance, but only Fitchett was a multiple hitter, going 2-for-4 with the home run for two RBI and one run. Ramirez was 1-for-3 with the homer, batting in three and also scoring the go-ahead run in the seventh.
Wrapping up the series with a 2-1 win and going 3-3 on the conference road trip, the Rainbow Warriors return home to Les Murakami Stadium for a three-game Big West homestand against UC Davis. The Aggies (10-19, 3-6 BWC) dropped 2-of-3 this weekend vs. Cal Poly at home. UCD will face Nevada at home on Tuesday before heading to Honolulu.