2-run 9th lifts UH to 5-4 win
• Photo gallery: Hawaii baseball Sunday
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai'i's Christian Johnson has history in clutch situations and against Kevin Rhoderick, the closer for the Oregon State Beavers.
Johnson's pinch-hit line-drive solo home run down the left-field line off Rhoderick tied the score at 4 in the bottom of the ninth and Collin Bennett's line single to center later scored Kolten Wong with the winning run to help the Rainbows rally past the Beavers, 5-4, yesterday at Les Murakami Stadium.
An ecstatic crowd of 2,024 saw the Rainbows (1-2) win their first game of the 2010 season against the Beavers (2-1), who were ranked 10th by Collegiate Baseball entering the season.
"You don't want to make too much of it," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "You want to keep an even keel, but it was a big win for us because it gets us off the schneid. To come back and win a game in the ninth against the back end of their bullpen — they'll probably go the rest of the year without blowing a save — that's going to do nothing but help our guys understand they're defined by their character and work ethic. That's going to allow them to win some games like this."
Hawai'i junior right-hander Josh Slaats, making his first start since his freshman season, left after six innings with a 3-2 lead. But Alex Capaul gave up a lead-off double to start the seventh to Carter Bell, who went to third on a sacrifice and scored the tying run on pinch-hitter Andy Quiring's sacrifice fly to center. Then with one out in the eighth, Stefen Romero ripped a solo home run to left off Capaul to give OSU a 4-3 lead.
"I left it up a little bit," said Capaul (1-0), who allowed two runs in three innings. "I think he knew it was coming, but he put a good swing on it."
The Rainbows went down in order in the bottom of the eighth against Sam Gaviglio, OSU's projected Friday starter who has been slowed by a sore hamstring.
After Capaul set down OSU in order in the top of the ninth, the Beavers sent in the right-handed Rhoderick to close out the bottom of the ninth.
Left-handed hitting Sean Montplaisir led off by lining out to right. Johnson then pinch hit for Breland Almadova, who came in as a defensive replacement in the seventh after starting center fielder Matt Roquemore was pinch-hit for in the sixth by Josh Chevalier.
Rhoderick fell behind 2-0 on the left-handed hitting Johnson, who rocketed an outside fastball down the left-field line for his first homer of the season. Johnson said he was familiar with Rhoderick through mutual friends when Johnson played at Central Arizona JC. But they only faced each other once last year and again Saturday night. Last year, Johnson went opposite-field and reached on a two-base error by the left fielder. Saturday night, he struck out.
"I knew he was going to come fastball 2-0, so I was just trying to go with it," Johnson said. "Everyone thinks I can't go oppo (opposite field), but I keep proving (I can) time and time."
Johnson also came through in clutch situations last year. He hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the 12th inning to beat host Portland at its own tournament. He also hit a seventh-inning, pinch-hit three-run home run to left at Nevada, though UH eventually lost the game in the 12th.
"Had Montplaisir got on base, Breland would've stayed in to bunt," Trapasso said. "But when he didn't, C.J.'s our guy in that situation. Remember he came in two or three times last year in late situations and hit home runs to tie or give us a lead.
"That's a huge hit, obviously, and to do it the way he did it — he hit a good pitch to the opposite field. That's a pretty clutch guy to show he has the ability to do that."
Rhoderick struck out Greg Garcia for the second out. But Wong, another clutch performer, drilled a double to right to represent the potential winning run.
Rhoderick pitched around Kevin Macdonald — who hit a grand slam to center Friday — and after a 3-0 count, intentionally walked the cleanup hitter
With the count 2-2 on Bennett, a wild pitch by Rhoderick moved the runners and made the count full. Bennett fouled off a pitch then lined the next one to center to score Wong and end the 3-hour, 1-minute game.
"My adenaline was just pumping," said Bennett, who transferred from Tacoma JC after his freshman season. "I was just trying to stay calm. When I had that 3-2 count, I kept telling myself, 'stay back and act like it was any other at bat.' Keep my mind set, calm, and keep my composure. He flipped me a slider when I was in the 3-2 count, then he went fastball."
Rhoderick (0-1), who retired all four batters he faced Saturday and threw 17 pitches, was charged with two runs, three hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. He was the last of five relievers who followed starter Greg Peavey. Peavey went five innings, allowing three runs (two earned), four hits and three walks with four strikeouts.
Hawai'i's Slaats allowed two runs, both unearned, six hits and a walk with three strikeouts.
"That's what we've seen from him all fall and all spring," Trapasso said. "He had three-pitch command and was able to move the fastball in and out."
Slaats added he was successful at getting "location with my fastball then mixing it up with my slider."
The Rainbows will try to salvage a split of the four-game series today in an unusual 5:05 p.m. start. The Beavers have a red-eye flight back to Corvallis, Ore., after the game.
Sam Spangler will start for the Rainbows.