(HAWAII ATHLETICS) – Before a season-first sellout crowd, the University of Hawai'i baseball team (22-16, 8-6 BWC) fell behind the CSUN Matadors (18-24, 6-8 BWC) after a big fifth inning in Saturday's roller coaster Big West tilt at Les Murakami Stadium. Despite keeping the pressure on the Matadors, the Rainbow Warriors were never able to battle back to the lead.
After a last-minute lineup change placed freshman Cade Smith on the mound, the Rainbow Warriors coasted into the third inning of the beginnings of a pitchers' duel. However, Smith saw some trouble from the Matadors, culminating in a two-run Justin Toerner triple that got past a sliding Dylan Vchulek in center field. Trevor Casanova added a sac fly to bring Toerner home, and CSUN took the early 3-0 lead, cutting Smith's night short.
The 'Bows chipped away at the CSUN lead in the home half, as Johnny Weeks brought home UH's first score on a sacrifice fly, but the Matadors stranded two UH runners to end the frame.
Facing the deficit, Hawai'i responded in kind, as Chayce Ka'aua faded an RBI just on the line to get the 'Bows moving in the fourth. Alex Baeza followed with an RBI single lined high into right field to tie the game, and Dylan Vchulek claimed the lead with a sacrifice fly.
The fifth inning proved to be a decisive one. The Matadors tied the game on an RBI hit batter, but blew the game open with a Toerner grand slam beyond the right field wall – the first at Les Murakami Stadium since 2009. Albee Weiss capped off the inning with an RBI double, assuming a 9-4 lead.
Twice the Rainbow Warriors cut the deficit back to just three runs, but each time the Matadors responded with a score of their own, fending off the 'Bows' rally to split the series with a final 12-7 margin.
Allowing the go-ahead run aboard after 1.2 innings of relief, Matt Richardson (1-1) took the loss. Brody Hagel-Pitt pitched a staff- and career-high four innings in the loss.
At the plate, Weeks went 1-for-4 while registering a career-high four RBI. Baeza went 2-for-5, scoring twice with an RBI.
With the series split at 1-1, the Rainbow Warriors and Matadors return to action at Les Murakami Stadium on Sunday for the rubber game. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m.