NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – Earning its second Big West series victory, the University of Hawai’i baseball team (24-15, 6-6 BWC) gutted out a 7-6 nailbiter in Sunday’s finale at CSUN (21-24, 8-7 BWC), rallying twice in the crucial conference win.
Separated from the longest Hawai’i game of the year by only four minutes, things did not initially look like they were going to roll in the UH’s favor on Sunday. The Matadors opened with a third-inning home run and rattled off four runs on five hits in the frame to plant their flag early.
The Rainbow Warriors made their first response in the fourth with third baseman Josh Rojas scoring on a throwing error, but saved the real fireworks for the next push.
Second baseman Johnny Weeks provided the start for UH in the fifth, coaxing a leadoff walk, but it was center fielder Dylan Vchulek that provided the spark, following with a double down the left field line. Weeks scored the first of many on a Dustin Demeter sac fly, which threw some gas on the flame. Hawai’i rattled off five consecutive hits, with RBI courtesy of Kekai Rios, Adam Fogel, Eric Ramirez and Alex Fitchett – teaming up to plate five runs, worth a 6-4 Rainbow Warrior advantage.
However, CSUN came storming right back, knotting the score in the bottom of the fifth with a single swing of Harrison Hart’s bat, tabbing a two-run homer to left field and the six-all tie.
Undeterred in the finale of a gritty conference series, Hawai’i capitalized on a pair of CSUN throwing errors that put Fogel on, and over, in the seventh. The big freshman designated hitter Logan Pouelsen came through in the clutch, pushing an RBI single into center field, driving the go-ahead run to the plate.
Taking the reins on the mound to close out the back half of the game, Kyle Mitchell and Dylan Thomas kept the Matadors off the board through four crucial innings, securing not only the 7-6 victory, but also the 2-1 series win. Mitchell (2-2) went 1.2 innings with no hits and a strikeout before yielding to Thomas for his sixth save on a 2.1-inning one-hit outing.
With the victory, the Rainbow Warriors exceed last year’s win total, but also reach the highest win count since joining the Big West Conference. This marks the second conference series win of the season.
At the plate, Rojas and Fogel combined to score four of UH’s runs; two apiece, with Rojas batting 2-for-3 with two walks and Fogel going 1-for-4 with an RBI and a walk. Vchulek and Fitchett also both hit 2-for-5 on the day.
The Rainbow Warriors return to Honolulu with a major task at hand, hosting defending Big West Champion Cal State Fullerton next week at Les Murakami Stadium. The ‘Bows came out of Fullerton on a high note last year, winning the first-ever series against the Titans. CSF has been a top-25 constant this season and come to Manoa with a 26-15 (8-4 BWC) record after winning the series at UC Irvine, 2-1 over the weekend.