(Hawaii Athletics) - University of Hawai‘i baseball’s (26-23, 10-12 BWC) ninth-inning rally bid fell just short with the go-ahead run on first in Thursday’s series opener at UC Santa Barbara (26-27, 9-13 BWC). Despite Ethan Lopez’ clutch offensive production, the Gauchos edged out the Rainbow Warriors for a 4-3 final at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

Playing from ahead most of the afternoon, the Gauchos made the first scoreboard strikes early, netting runs back-to-back in the third and fourth innings, using setup doubles to take a 2-0 lead over the Rainbow Warriors.

Held off the scoreboard for six innings, Lopez got the ‘Bows moving with his second hit of the day and evened the score with a key swing, belting an opposite-field home run to right field for two runs and the tie.

However, the Hawai‘i advantage was short lived, as the Gauchos quickly made trouble for left-handed starter Kash Koltermann and capitalized with consecutive RBI singles for Clay Fisher and Tommy Jew to rebuild the two-run lead in the home half of the inning.

Trailing 4-2 into the final inning, the Rainbow Warriors threatened to rally once more, as Lopez again produced a key swing with runners, ripping an RBI single into left field against right-handed reliever Alex Patterson. However, UCSB went back to the bullpen for projected Saturday starter Chris Clements, who produced two consecutive outs to strand the tie run at second and deal UH a 4-3 loss.

Making his first career start, Koltermann (0-1) went a career-long 6.2 innings with three runs on nine hits, neither striking out nor walking any batters. For UCSB, Stevie Ledesma (7-3) went 8.0 frames with two runs on eight hits. Clements (2) picked up the save.

At the plate, Lopez went 3-for-4 and batted in all three of UH’s runs. Dustin Demeter also went 2-for-3 and scored on Lopez’ homer.

With just two games remaining for both clubs, the Rainbow Warriors and Gauchos return to action on Friday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. HT (3:00 p.m. PT).