Despite tying program record for home runs, Hawai’i falls at CSUN

Josh Rojas

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – The University of Hawai’i baseball squad (22-15, 4-6 BWC) came out on the wrong end of a see-saw momentum battle in Friday’s series opener against CSUN (21-22, 8-5 BWC) at Matador Field.

Starter Brendan Hornung fought with gusting wind over 25 mph early, issuing a first-inning leadoff walk to Alvaro Rubalcaba that would come back to the bite the ‘Bows. After stealing second and reaching third on a sacrifice bunt, Rubalcaba gave CSUN a 1-0 advantage at the end of the first frame, scoring on a Dylan Alexander sacrifice fly.

In the bottom of the third, the Rainbow Warriors turned the heavy winds to their advantage, launching an aerial assault on the Matadors. After center fielder Dylan Vchulek laced his second single, shortstop Dustin Demeter launched his second home run of the year – a two-run shot beyond the right field wall for the 2-1 UH lead. Separated by one batter, third baseman Josh Rojas followed with a towering 400-foot center field bomb of his own, growing the ‘Bows lead to two runs.

The winds continued to do Hornung no favors, as he issued further walks in the second and third – his first time in 11 games to allow more than a single walk in a game. The full count pass in the third came again stung the ‘Bows, as Albee Weiss fired a two-out, two-run homer out to right field, tying the game at 3-3.

The ‘Bows didn’t let it settle for long, as Rojas made it back-to-back at-bats with a homer, reclaiming the Hawai’i lead with a shot to right field – becoming the first UH batter to hit two since Jordan Richartz in 2015. Left fielder Adam Fogel expanded that lead with another long ball – his second of the year.

Hornung’s fourth walk of the day matched the highest count in his UH career – the most in 26 games for the junior. It also set up the beginnings of another CSUN comeback, moving Riley Conlan across; he later trimmed the UH lead on an Alexander RBI single through the middle infield.

Relieving Hornung after 90 pitches in the bottom, Colin Ashworth‘s appearance was short-lived, giving up home runs to Nolan Bumstead and Nick Sablock, as well as the lead, on a three-run swing that pushed CSUN ahead 7-5 before Matt Richardson closed off the frame.

The ‘Bows battled back as the Matadors retired Tei Vanderford, the starting pitcher, loading the bases against Conner O’Neil. Demeter scored from third on a wild pitch, but the game-tying attempt cost UH, as Rojas was tagged out at home. Again, CSUN was quick to defend their lead on an Elias Orona RBI double in the home half.

Once more it was the long ball that helped UH make a move, as Eric Ramirez led off the eighth with Hawai’i’s fifth home run – matching the school record last recorded in 1999, and trimming the deficit to a single run. However, after the shaky start, O’Neil delivered for CSUN, securing his sixth save and the 8-7 Matadors win.

For CSUN, Vanderford (5-4) earned the win after throwing 6.1 innings with six earned runs on 12 hits. Ashworth (1-1) takes the loss for the ‘Bows, giving three runs on 0.2 innings, while Hornung takes a no decision after allowing four runs on four hits in 5.0 innings.

Eight UH hitters collected base knocks on a total of 12 for the day, with five coming from homers. Rojas led UH with 2-for-3 hitting, both on homers, while Fogel was also 2-for-3 with one homer of his own. Demeter and Logan Pouelsen also collected two hits each.

Dropping the first game of the series, the Rainbow Warriors line up with the Matadors again on Saturday at Matador Field. First pitch is slated for 10:00 a.m. HT.

#HawaiiBSB

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