(HAWAII ATHLETICS) – The University of Hawai'i baseball team (19-12, 5-3 BWC) split the opening two games of the Big West series with UCR Riverside (14-15, 4-4 BWC) on Saturday at Les Murakami Stadium. The Rainbow Warriors rallied late in a weather-postponed opener, but couldn't match the Highlanders' sustained hitting in the second go-around.
Game 1: Hawai'i 5, UC Riverside 4
Senior left fielder Johnny Weeks came through for the Rainbow Warriors with the game on the line, plating Ethan Lopez for the go-ahead score from second base in the bottom of the eighth, breaking a 4-4 tie with the game-winning RBI single.
The series opener kicked off on Friday night, but the weather system circling the islands had other plans, as heavy rains and lightning halted play just under an hour into the game. The 'Bows had a man on base looking to retaliate after the Highlanders had overcome Logan Pouelsen's first-inning RBI single to tie the game in the third.
Opening back up on Friday, the 'Bows capitalized quickly as Pouelsen scored Maaki Yamazaki for the second time, pulling ahead in the third and extending the lead on a fourth-inning Dustin Demeter two-run homer to right field.
However, battling against Pouelsen's fourth inning pulling double-duty as a reliever, a three-run Dean Miller double evened things up. Weeks' clutch hitting gave UH the advantage two frames later, and closer Dylan Thomas shut the door with his 10th save in 13 opportunities to secure the 5-4 victory.
Taking over for Pouelsen in the seventh, left-hander Kyle Hatton (2-1) earned the victory on 1.2 innings in relief, striking out two with no hits.
Pouelsen finished the opener 2-for-3 with two RBI, while Yamazaki walked three times and batted 1-for-2 to score twice.
Game 2: UC Riverside 9, Hawai'i
The Highlanders approach looked completely different in the second outing, making solid contact with even the cleanest of pitches. UC Riverside got to starter Neil Uskali in the first and came through with four more to run off the senior starter in the second.
Allowing his first earned runs of the season, Kash Koltermann slowed the Highlanders through 2.1 innings of relief, but couldn't keep them off the scoreboard, allowing runs in the third and fourth.
It wasn't until right-handed senior Brody Hagel-Pitt stepped to the mound in the fifth that the scoreboard started to show zeroes for the Highlanders, directly after Hawai'i mounted its best shot at a rally in the fourth. A two-run double from first baseman Alex Baeza trimmed the deficit to 7-2, but that's the closest the 'Bows would get. UCR tacked on a pair in the ninth to deal UH the 9-2 loss and split the series.
The Highlanders logged an opponent-high 18 hits, nine of which were doubles, while holding the 'Bows to seven base hits.
Uskali (6-2) had his string snapped at four consecutive starts with a win, making his shortest career appearance at 1.2 innings. Hagel-Pitt went a career-long 3.0 scoreless innings in middle relief with four hits and three strikeouts, ahead of Scott Bellina's career-first appearance.
With the series split at 1-1, the Rainbow Warriors and Highlanders return to Les Murakami Stadium for the rubber match on Sunday at 1:05 p.m.