(Hawaii Athletics) - Despite securing the go-ahead run in the ninth on a Dustin Demeter homer, a UC Santa Barbara (27-27, 10-13 BWC) walk-off comeback befell the University of Hawai'i baseball team (26-24, 10-13 BWC) on Friday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Although the Rainbow Warriors were able to grab an early lead, the Gauchos found a rhythm with their relief pitching that provided position for the comeback in the late innings on Friday.
Shut down in the first, the Rainbow Warriors started to heat up with two outs in the second, as back-to-back hits from Eric Ramirez and Ethan Lopez set the table. Center fielder Dylan Vchulek made it count, firing a hotshot RBI single to the shortstop, and Maaki Yamazaki ramped another off the bag at second base to score two more, securing a 3-0 advantage early.
Although the Gauchos chipped one run off the lead in the home half, the 'Bows came out swinging again in the third, using a Lopez RBI single to left field to plate Adam Fogel and knock UCSB starter Chris Lincoln out of the game with a 4-1 Hawai'i lead.
UCSB sliced another run off the advantage with a RBI single that eliminated starter Brody Hagel-Pitt from the game thanks to a ricochet off his ankle. UCSB then trimmed the UH lead to 4-3 with an RBI groundout against Logan Pouelsen in the fourth.
Entering in relief in the third, left-hander Ben Brecht proved to be a much bigger challenge for the Rainbow Warriors, retiring 16-of-17 UH hitters into the 9th inning, dealing out eight strikeouts.
Normally playing the shutdown in his role, closer Dylan Thomas allowed a first-ever two-walk inning and gave up the tie run in the eighth. However, working out of the jam left the door open for Dusting Demeter to belt Hawai'i back in front in the top of the ninth with a 15-pitch leadoff home run.
With seemingly all the momentum in favor of UH in the final inning of regulation, the home frame did not go as anyone would have predicted. Two one-out hits set the Gauchos up for the tie on Sam Cohen's sac fly, and Cole Mueller lined an RBI single into right center for the 6-5 UCSB win. It marked the first time UH had been walked off this year and the first time Thomas (3-2) has allowed more than one run in 20 appearances.
Yamazaki led the 'Bows with 2-for-5 hitting to produce two RBI, while Vchulek and Lopez each hit 2-for-4 with an RBI.
The Rainbow Warriors and Gauchos will both conclude their seasons on Saturday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, kicking off the finale with first pitch at 11:00 a.m. HT.