(Hawaii Athletics) - The University of Hawai'i baseball team (15-8, 1-0 Big West) opened Big West Conference play with a huge historic win at UC Irvine (13-11, 0-1 Big West), earning the program's first-ever victory in 13 tries at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark. While a solid team effort earned the series-opening win, Logan Pouelsen's performance hogged the spotlight.
Starting the game at designated hitter, Pouelsen had a hand in several key moments for the Rainbow Warriors in Thursday night's win, scoring twice including the go-ahead run, after hitting 3-for-5 with two doubles and a triple. In addition, the Huntington Beach, Calif. sophomore bridged the pitching with three shutout innings.
From the opening frame, Hawai'i showed up ready to cause problems for UC Irvine starter Andre Pallante, coming in with the nation's sixth-best ERA (0.87) and the Big West's leading strikeout count (53). After the Rainbow Warriors stranded a runner at third in back-to-back innings, catcher Tyler Murray jumpstarted the offense the quick way, crushing a two-out, full count, career-first home run way beyond the left field wall in the fourth.
Another two-out extra base hit allowed the Rainbow Warriors to extend their lead in the fifth, as first baseman Eric Ramirez was called back to the plate after believing he was hit, then belted the next pitch down the left field line to plate Pouelsen and Kekai Rios for the 3-0 lead. The 'Bows retired Pallante from the mound with a season-most three earned runs, drawing three walks with five hits through his five innings.
However, the Anteaters came back with a strong counter, using their first runner in scoring position to tack a run on the board, as Jake Palmer looped a double just over the third baseline in the bottom of the fifth. Brendan Brooks followed with a sacrifice fly and Palmer knotted the score on a wild pitch to erase the UH advantage.
The Hawai'i response was swift, as Pouelsen scored the go-ahead run after shooting a career-first triple into the right field bullpen in the top of the seventh, crossing the dish on Rios' RBI single into left center.
Already putting in work on offense, Pouelsen (3-1) took over for starter Jackson Rees on the bump in the sixth, facing and retiring nine Anteaters in three scoreless innings, striking out two for the win. Taking over in the ninth, closer Dylan Thomas earned his seventh save in 10 attempts, tossing just nine pitches.
All nine UH batters collected a hit as UH matched its season high at 13 hits, also with Dustin Demeter going 2-for-4 and Adam Fogel going 2-for-5.
The Rainbow Warriors and Anteaters resume the series on Friday at Anteater Ballpark. With a 3:30 p.m. HT (6:30 p.m. PT) first pitch, the second league contest is again to be broadcast live on ESPN3/WatchESPN.