(Hawaii Athletics) - The University of Hawai'i baseball team (14-8) has worked through a successful home non-conference slate and are now headed out on the road to face their first conference foe of the year. The Rainbow Warriors kick off the Big West schedule against UC Irvine in a three-game set at Anteater Ballpark, Thursday-Saturday (March 29-31). The first two games of the series are to be televised on ESPN3.
The Rainbow Warriors record a 14-8 mark at 22 games for the second straight year, but get an earlier jump on conference play with another non-conference set scheduled for early May at Fresno State.
Hawai'i is coming off a 2-2 series split against a scrappy Seton Hall team; a series that saw Warriors step up when called in both pitching and at the plate. Senior Johnny Weeks smacked a two-run bomb for the walk-off win on Sunday, while a pair of left center home runs from Kekai Rios and Adam Fogel pushed UH over the top in the finale.
Speaking of Fogel, despite his sophomore status, the Palos Verdes, Calif. native is proving to be a true 2018 leader for the Warriors. He paces the team at the plate with a .338 average, holding top stats in hits (27), RBI (13), runs (16), doubles (11) and homers (3), reaching base at a .430 clip.
For his two-bagger effort, Fogel ranks 12th in the NCAA with 0.52 doubles per game.
What's been working this season for the 'Bows is a variety of players able to step up when called. Weeks' walk-off homer capped a 3-for-5 performance to keep UH in the game, while Friday is was Fogel and a 2-for-5, three-RBI night from Dustin Demeter to highlight the UH scoring. Last week, Chayce Ka'aua earned Big West Player of the Week after logging a with a .462 average (6-for-13) with two runs scored and six RBI against Illinois State.
Shortstop Maaki Yamazaki is the current second in hitting for the 'Bows, batting .289 with four doubles, 12 runs and seven RBI; also providing UH with 15 double plays on the defensive end.
As for defense, the Hawai'i pitching staff is in the spotlight heading into Big West play, leading the league and ranking 29th nationally with a 2.95 ERA - topped by No. 1 starter Jackson Rees' 2.08. On the other end of the pitching lineup, sophomore closer Dylan Thomas ties for 12th in the NCAA with six saves, complementing his 1.98 ERA and 16 strikeouts to no walks in 13.2 innings.
The Anteaters sit just behind UH in the non-conference records at 12-10, taking on some challenging opposition, coming up 7-4 at home so far. UCI replaces 2017 first-round draft pick Keston Hiura, who batted .442 last year. However, freshman center fielder Jake Palmer isn't doing too badly in filling that role, batting .338 with a team-high 18 runs. Second-year senior first baseman Ryan Fitzpatrick also hits .338 with a team-best 21 RBI and 15 runs. The Anteaters average 8.9 hits and five runs per game, while allowing 4.8 runs on a 3.96 team ERA.
Always a tough pitching squad, the Anteater starters are led by Andre Pallante, who's killing batters with a league-leading, NCAA eighth-best 0.87 ERA, striking out 53 with only eight walks in 41.1 innings for a 3-0 record. The other starters for UCI have been steady as junior right-hander Louis Raymond (1-3, 3.86 ERA, 16 SO, 7 BB) and freshman right-hander Trenton Denholm (1-3, 4.82 ERA, 24 SO, 13 BB).
The Rainbow Warriors and Anteaters will meet for the 37th time to open the series, a history that largely favors UCI to a 27-9 advantage. The teams have split the last two series, both played in Honolulu. UCI swept UH in the last meeting in Irvine; a series decided fully by a total of five runs.
The first two games of the series will be broadcasted live on ESPN3 as part of the Big West Conference and ESPN's collaboration. UCI and UH will kick off the conference national broadcasts for the year.
After facing the Anteaters, UH will remain on the road as part of a two-week road swing, facing Pacific on Monday (April 2) before heading to UC Davis for a three-game conference series, Friday-Sunday (April 6-8).
University of Hawai'i Games 23-25
What: Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors (14-8, 0-0 BWC ) at UC Irvine Anteaters (12-10, 0-0 BWC)
When:  Thursday, March 29, 3:30 p.m. HT
              Friday, March 30, 3:30 p.m. HT
              Saturday, March 31, 11:00 a.m. HT
Where: Irvine, Calif. (Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark)
Television and Live Streaming: The first two games of the series (Thursday-Friday) will be televised on ESPN3/WatchESPN
Radio: All games will be broadcast live on the radio. Thursday-Friday will air on ESPN 1420 AM, while Saturday will appear on NBC Sports 1500 AM. All games will feature the UH debut of Scott Galetti on the call. For the first two games, neighbor islands can listen Saturday and Monday live on KNUI on Maui, KHLO in Hilo, KKON in Kona and KTOH on Kaua'i.
Audio Webcast: www.ESPN1420am.com | www.NBCSportsRadioHawaii.com
Live Stats: Live in-game stats will be provided by UC Irvine Athletics.