(Hawaii Athletics) - The University of Hawai'i baseball team (1-0) started the 2018 campaign on the right foot Friday night at Les Murakami Stadium, defeating Mountain West foe Air Force (0-1) in a four-run shutout to claim the first UH season-opening victory since 2012.
Redshirt junior starter Jackson Rees was superb in his inaugural appearance of the new year, fanning six falcon batters in a 93-pitch, 7.0-inning outing. Touching mid-90's off the bump, Rees allowed just six hits and one walk, shutting down the Falcons with a .111 average with runners aboard.
Sporting green and orange throwback uniforms, Hawai'i produced a very clean game in all aspects, and it was timely plays that made the difference, from the pair of UH double-plays, to a pair of RBI doubles to give UH some breathing room.
Redshirt senior designated hitter Chayce Ka'aua got the Rainbow Warriors moving in the second frame, firing a rope down the right field line and overtaking second on a wild pitch. Senior first baseman Eric Ramirez sent Ka'aua to the plate for the first UH run of the year with an RBI line shot down the left line.
Ramirez would score as well in the second, as junior shortstop Maaki Yamazaki recorded his first career RBI, chopping a fielder's choice to third.
Air Force starter Tyler Mortenson was a stout adversary, but the 'Bows got to him again in the fifth, as sophomores Dustin Demeter and Adam Fogel double-up on doubles to extend the lead to 3-0. Stepping right back into old habits, Fogel was the team's doubles leader a year ago, with this RBI two-bagger bringing an end to Mortenson's night.
The Rainbow Warriors went on to extend their lead once more, and once again it was Ka'aua that initiated the push, leading off the eighth with a single. Junior third baseman Ethan Lopez followed with an RBI double deep to left center for the 4-0 advantage.
Closing out the night on the mound, freshman Cade Smith held the line in his debut, before yielding to returning Freshman All-American closer Dylan Thomas, who earned the save on 1.1 innings of action – the 10th of his young career.
Senior Johnny Weeks went 2-for-3 with a run, while Lopez and Ka'aua hit 2-for-4, the trio leading the Rainbow Warriors' nine-hit opening night.
The Rainbow Warriors and Falcons return to action on Saturday for game two of the four-game series with first pitch slated for 6:35 p.m. at Les Murakami Stadium.