HONOLULU – The University of Hawai’i baseball team (26-19, 8-10 BWC) heads to the road for the final time in the 2017 season, taking on Big West frontrunner No. 7 Long Beach State (32-16-1, 15-3) in a three-game conference series, running Friday-Sunday, May 19-21 at Blair Field.
The Rainbow Warriors are coming off a tough pair of one-run losses to drop the UC Irvine series at Les Murakami Stadium. Although the ‘Bows earned their first winning season since 2012 on the opener win, UH dropped the series 2-1.
The Dirtbags are having a phenomenal year and are at their highest ranking after winning their eighth consecutive series over the weekend, topping Minnesota 2-1 in Minneapolis. LBSU remains at the top of the Big West standings, and currently holds a three-game lead over second-place Cal State Fullerton.
LBSU is hitting .277 as a team and are top-heavy, with four batters hitting over .320. Pacing the group is junior transfer third baseman Ramsey Romano with a Big West fourth-best .344 average, leading the team and tying for Big West third with 34 RBI, as well as 20 runs. Junior transfer shortstop Laine Huffman is another that just puts the bat on the ball, hitting .328 with 24 RBI and 18 runs. The big bat comes from redshirt junior left fielder Lucas Tancas, who hits .324 with nine home runs, eight doubles and two triples, topping the Dirtbags with 37 runs.
Over the past few weeks, the Dirtbags have been holding steady as the top Big West pitching unit as well, working with a team ERA of 3.21 – ranking 13th in the NCAA – LBSU allows just 3.7 runs per outing. All three of the right-handed primary starters have reached seven wins. The defense is also strong with this group, where they rank 15th nationally with a .980 fielding percentage.
The Rainbow Warriors have continued to hit strong this season with a .270 team average (fourth Big West), but had some struggles finishing for scores in the two losses against UC Irvine. Runners were left aboard in the final two innings of both losses. By and large that has not been an issue for the ‘Bows this season, scoring over five runs per game.
Junior center fielder Dylan Vchulek saw his reached base streak end at 44 games – the second-longest in the nation at the time, but was able to provide the ‘Bows with an RBI to climb back in the game. Vchulek leads the ‘Bows with a .317 average, scoring a team-high 33 runs on 59 hits, adding 23 RBI. After a tough couple of series, sophomore Catcher Kekai Rios has slipped under .300 for the first time this year, hitting .299 with 25 runs and 19 RBI. Meanwhile, freshman left fielder Adam Fogel found his stroke against the Anteaters, rising up to .297 on the season after hitting .636 (7-for-11) versus UCI, adding three RBI and one run. On the year, Fogel ties for third in the Big West with a team-high 14 doubles – the most for UH since 2013. He also chips in 23 RBI, 19 runs and three homers.
The ‘Bows pitching staff slightly trails LBSU, ranking second with a team ERA of 3.52, thanks to an NCAA-leading 2.26 walks per nine innings. Last weekend, Hawai’i saw the return of sophomore southpaw Dominic DeMiero to the rotation, tossing 5.2 innings with two runs on six hits. The weekend also saw senior right-hander Brendan Hornung get back on track, earning his sixth win with just one earned run in 7.0 innings of action.
Returning to the home crowd where he played several high school games for the second time, Long Beach native Johnny Weeks has had a productive season. The Millikan High School grad is hitting .275 with five doubles, two triples and a pair of dingers, scoring 25 runs and batting in 24 more. At second base, he ties for the team lead with 120 assists.
It’s been a fairly even series over the years, dating back to 1979, but the Dirtbags have the upper hand with a 12-7 advantage. The ‘Bows fell 2-1 in the series last year, but swept the Dirtbags the last time they were at Blair Field in 2015.
Series Pitching Matchups
|Hawai’i||No. 7 Long Beach State|
|Thursday:||RHP Brendan Hornung
(6-4, 2.94 ERA, 95.0 IP, 15 BB, 80 SO)
|RHP Darren McCaughan
(7-2, 2.93, 95.1 IP, 13 BB, 84 SO)
|Friday:||LHP Dominic DeMiero
(4-4, 2.65 ERA, 71.1 IP, 11 BB, 40 SO)
|RHP John Sheaks
(7-2, 3.55, 71.0 IP, 22 BB, 43 SO)
|Saturday:||RHP Jackson Rees
(5-1, 3.77 ERA, 71.2 IP, 30 BB, 36 SO)
|RHP Dave Smith
(7-1, 1.77, 61.0 IP, 7 BB, 31 SO)
What: Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (26-19, 8-10 BWC) at Long Beach State Dirtbags (32-16-1, 15-3 BWC)
When: Friday, May 19, 3:00 p.m. HT
Saturday, May 20, 11:00 a.m. HT
Sunday, May 21, 10:00 a.m. HT
Where: Long Beach, Calif. (Blair Field)
Live Video Streaming: None
Radio: All games will be broadcast live on the radio with Mel Proctor on the call from Long Beach. The first game will appear on NBC Hawai’i 1500 AM, and the final two games will air on ESPN Honolulu 1420 AM. For the final two series contests, neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KHLO in Hilo, KKON in Kona and KTOH on Kaua’i.
Audio Webcast: www.NBCSportsRadioHawaii.com | www.ESPN1420am.com
Live Stats: Live in-game stats will be provided by Long Beach State Athletics throughout the series at the link listed below.