'Bows win, 5-2; share WAC baseball lead
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Hawai'i pulled into a tie for first place in the Western Athletic Conference with a 5-2 win against Sacramento State last night.
A Les Murakami Stadium crowd of 3,411 — the second highest of the season to the 3,481 against Southern California on Feb. 25 — saw the Rainbows (31-12 overall, 9-6 WAC) earn a share of first place with Fresno State, also 9-6, which swept a non-conference doubleheader from Dallas Baptist. They pulled ahead of Louisiana Tech (9-7), which lost to New Mexico State, 5-4, yesterday.
"It's always good to be in first place now, but we just gotta continue to play (well)," UH relief pitcher Tyler Davis said. "If we keep playing well, keep getting timely hits, we'll be fine."
But the Rainbows still have eight more conference games to go, seven of them on the road, in a conference in which only 4 1/2 games separate the first-place from seventh-place teams.
"It's so tight that it's still too early to scoreboard-watch until you get into the last couple weekends," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "You can go from first to third to first in a three-day weekend. We got a long way to go."
Once again, the Rainbows got strong pitching. Justin Costi (6-1) did not have fastball command, but did have his other pitches working in allowing two runs, four hits and a walk with six strikeouts in seven innings. Davis gave up a walk in two scoreless innings for his second save.
"What saved me tonight was my defense, definitely," Costi said.
"He was able to go deep in to the game with what he had," Trapasso said. "The defense again made some really nice plays. I credit Justin for battling through the night."
Derek DuPree supplied a key two-run double that snapped a 1-all game in the bottom of the second.
"(The offense) was better tonight, for sure," Trapasso said. "We're still not clicking on all cylinders, but we got some big hits when we needed them."
UH second baseman Jon Hee made a third-inning error to put on the lead-off batter, who was then erased caught stealing second. But Hee stole a hit from David Flores — who stole a number of hits from UH at third base Friday night — when he sprinted out toward center to haul in a soft looper for the second out in the ninth inning with a runner at first.
"I just felt it in my glove when it came down," Hee said of the play.
The Hornets staked starter Mitch Lively to a 1-0 lead in the second when Brian Blauser led off the frame with a home run over the left-center field wall.
"I just left it over the plate," Costi said of the homer. "I know that guy from high school (in Elk Grove, Calif.). He kind of has my number, even from high school he did."
But the Rainbows jumped on Lively in the second. With one out, Esteban Lopez was hit by a pitch and took second on a wild pitch before Lively struck out Eli Christensen. Hee then reached on a single up the middle that second baseman Gary Johnson fielded, but had no play, putting runners at the corners. But a pick-off throwing error to first allowed Lopez to score the tying run and moved Hee all the way to third. Robbie Wilder drew a walk and stole second to put runners in scoring position, setting up DuPree's two-run double to right to put the Rainbows ahead, 3-1.
The Rainbows got two more in the fourth, again with the help of a Lively error. Christensen reached safely on a one-out, two-base throwing error by Lively. Christensen advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Hee's fly ball single to center, ruled a trap by the umpires to make it 4-1. Wilder doubled to right to put runners at second and third. DuPree hit a grounder up the middle that second baseman Johnson deflected toward shortstop Everett Rincon, who threw out the batter as Hee scored to make it 5-1.
The Hornets (20-26, 8-9) got one in the fifth on a two-out, RBI single by Rincon.
But Costi would allow only one base runner in the sixth and seventh, as did Davis in the eighth and ninth.
Today's 1:05 p.m. game is the final home game of the season for the Rainbows, who will honor seniors Costi, Wilder, Luis Avila, Lopez, Adam Roberts, Matt Inouye and Dean Turner.
Long-time professional baseball scout Wally Komatsubara received the 19th annual Chuck Leahey award, for outstanding service and contributions to the game of professional baseball, before last night's game.
Komatsubara, who scouts for the Boston Red Sox, has evaluated local amateur players over the years.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at email@example.com.