(HAWAII ATHLETICS) – The University of Hawai'i baseball team (18-10, 4-1 BWC) fended off a late-game rally at UC Davis (8-17, 1-4 BWC) to earn another Big West series win on Saturday at the Dobbins Baseball Complex. The Rainbow Warriors secured key runs late, while star closer Dylan Thomas held the line to pick up the fourth win of the road trip and finish off the Aggies in the 8-5 victory.
For the third consecutive appearance, starter Neil Uskali struggled to shut down hitting early. However, the early UC Davis push was short-lived. The Aggies worked the bases full in the bottom of the first, but only came up with a sacrifice fly, scoring Brad Pluschkell for the first-inning 1-0 lead. Limiting the damage in the first, Uskali settled in for the long haul.
Silenced for four consecutive innings with hits but nothing on the board, Hawai'i finally broke through in the top of the fifth, using bunts to load up the bases with no outs on UC Davis starter Jared Sasaki. Right Fielder Adam Fogel made the first strike for the 'Bows, forcing a tough play for UCD the shortstop and scoring Dustin Demeter for the tie run on the RBI single. Designated hitter Logan Pouelsen followed with an RBI single shot through the four-hole to score Dylan Vchulek. Capping off the scoring run, Maaki Yamazaki followed for the 3-1 advantage on a Kekai Rios sacrifice fly.
Again the 'Bows loaded up the bases in the sixth, and again Hawai'i tallied multiple runs, as Johnny Weeks scored Chayce Ka'aua and ended the outing for Sasaki, while Vchulek came home for the four-run lead on a dropped Fogel line drive to shortstop.
Once more, the Rainbow Warriors rattled off a pair of runs to extend their lead thanks to RBI from Rios and Fogel in the eighth, giving Hawai'i a comfortable advantage that would come in handy.
Overcoming some challenges in the opening stanza, Uskali (6-1) scattered just two additional Aggie hits across the next five frames of his 6.0-inning outing, putting up zeroes each time out to set himself up for the win. However, in the eighth, UC Davis marched toward a comeback against reliever Cade Smith, scoring four runs, including an ever-rare run plated with Thomas on the mound.
With Fogel hitting another liner into an error, the 'Bows tacked up an insurance run in the ninth, growing the lead back out to three runs at 8-5. Quelling the rally, Thomas finished off the job for his ninth save in the home half – matching his save count from a year ago and tying Joey Vierra (1986-87) for fourth on the UH career saves list with 18.
The 'Bows racked up 14 hits while Weeks hit 3-for-5 with one RBI, and Fogel was 3-for-6 with two RBI, each scoring a run. For UH, eight batters recorded a hit on the day.
The Rainbow Warriors take the series with the win (2-0) and are slated to finish up with the Aggies on Sunday with a 10:00 a.m. HT (1:00 p.m. PT) first pitch at Dobbins Baseball Complex.