Hawaii splits pair with The Citadel
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. The Citadel baseball
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai'i got a needed boost from the arm of Josh Slaats to salvage a split of a doubleheader with The Citadel last night.
After dropping the opener, 9-5, Slaats fired a two-hitter in the seven-inning nightcap to stop the Rainbows' three-game losing streak with a 9-0 win before 1,397 at Les Murakami Stadium.
Slaats had a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings before No. 9 hitter William Ladd hit a liner to center that short-hopped center fielder Breland Almadova for the Bulldogs' first hit of the game. It was followed by another line single from Nick Orvin to put runners at the corners. But Slaats struck out Brad Felder to end the inning.
"Doing it against this offensive club is pretty impressive," UH coach Mike Trapasso said of Slaats' performance against the Bulldogs, who had 13 hits in the opener and 14 in the previous night's 12-8 win. "Doing it in the situation we were in, being down two games and really struggling, it was big for him to do what he did and give us a chance to split the series tomorrow."
Slaats (1-0) threw 83 pitches in the complete-game win. He hit a batter in the fourth to end his bid for a perfect game, but the runner was caught stealing. He walked a batter to start the sixth, but he was erased on a double play. But then came the back-to-back singles. He struck out seven.
"Nobody talked about it until after the hit, of course," Slaats said. "Then they came up to me and said, 'Aw, I thought you had it.' So it was fun."
Slaats was able to move his fastball effectively and then dispose of batters with his hard slider.
In the opener, the aggressive- hitting Bulldogs swung at the first pitch 20 of 41 plate appearances, batting 6 for 13. The other seven times the first pitch was swung and missed or fouled off. In the nightcap, they swung at Slaats' first pitch nine of 24 times.
"We're going to be aggressive at the plate," The Citadel coach Fred Jordan said. "Of course, Game 2, Slaats took that aggressiveness away. He was very, very good.
"He did a good job of locating his fastball on both sides of the plate and pitched ahead in the count."
Trapasso said the difference in The Citadel's aggressive approach against Nate Klein and first-game starter Matt Sisto is that Slaats has more velocity.
"When he's throwing strike one and being aggressive like that, that's when you see games like this," Trapasso said. "In the past when he's struggled, he's gotten behind in the count and had to come in down the middle."
Except for the two singles, the Bulldogs never really hit the ball hard. The only threats were pop ups driven by the strong winds.
"He just kept his composure, trusting what he's got," Slaats' batterymate Kevin Fujii said. "When you trust it, good things can happen."
The Rainbows cashed in on four Bulldogs' errors, three by starting pitcher Matt Talley (1-1), who allowed seven runs, but only three earned, in four innings. They scored in every inning but the sixth and made the most of their six hits, including three two-run home runs.
Kevin Macdonald, moved from cleanup to seventh in the first game and sixth in the second game, homered in both games.
Freshman third baseman Pi'ikea Kitamura hit his first career home run to ignite UH's four-run fourth that was later followed by Greg Garcia's two-run inside-the-park home run. Right fielder Matt Simonelli crashed into the wall chasing Garcia's drive and the ball caromed toward the right field-foul line. Center fielder Orvin had to chase the ball down against the speedy Garcia.
Trapasso made some lineup changes for both games. Sean Montplaisir moved from the ninth spot to leadoff, usually occupied by Almadova, in the first game. Freshman Kalani Brackenridge led off the nightcap and Almadova batted ninth. Hot-hitting Collin Bennett moved to cleanup, but went 1 for 7 in the doubleheader.
"We had to bump Mac (Macdonald) down to get a different look in the four hole," Trapasso said. "He really responded. I think the four hole might be cursed because Collin went 1 for 7 on the day. Mac's a mature kid. He understands and he had a great doubleheader. He had better swings."
In the opener, Sisto (1-2) was tagged for eight runs and 10 hits in six innings for UH.
Hawai'i had its chances against The Citadel starter Asher Wojciechowski (3-0), who allowed five runs, seven hits and five walks in five innings. The next three relievers combined for four shutout innings to seal it with Matt Reifsnider, who came in with the tying run on deck, recording the save by getting the final two outs.
The series concludes today with a 12:05 p.m. start.