'Bows rout Aggies, 13-7
By Don Ketchum
Special to the Honolulu Advertiser
MESA, Ariz. — A convergence of prolific hitting, timely relief pitching and shoddy defense by the opponent helped carry Hawai'i into the next round of the Western Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament yesterday.
After rallying for an 8-7 victory over Louisiana Tech in 10 innings in Wednesday's opener, the momentum continued for the Rainbows. They scored six runs in the fourth inning and rolled to a 13-7 victory over second-seeded New Mexico State at HoHoKam Park.
Hawai'i (31-25) advances to a 4:30 p.m. game (Hawai''i time) today against top-seeded Fresno State (36-23), which beat San Jose State, 12-10, last night.
The Rainbows collected 19 hits yesterday, four by center fielder Collin Bennett, and each starter had at least one. Third baseman Pi'ikea Kitamura was the last to join the parade with a ninth-inning single.
Right-hander Zach Gallagher gave up just two hits and got a rare 4 2/3 -inning save. And New Mexico State tied a WAC tournament record with six errors, leading to seven unearned runs.
"We're feeling it right now. We're definitely feeling it,'' said Bennett, who had a pair of doubles and three RBIs. "This is the point of the season where you want your bats to start coming alive.''
Bennett, the team's top RBI man entering the game and second in hits, said he has been seeing the ball well and has been working on his swing in batting practice.
"I'm making sure I am more patient,'' he said.
Bennett's two-run double highlighted a three-run eighth inning that doubled the UH lead to six runs at 13-7.
"A lead of three is not a big lead, so to be able to get those runs pretty much iced it,'' Bennett said.
Bennett was happy for Gallagher, his roommate, who entered the game in the fifth. Gallagher replaced Alex Capaul, who had relieved starter Sam Spangler.
"I felt good out there today," said Gallagher, who threw 84 pitches. "I felt comfortable with our offense getting us the big lead. They are so explosive.''
New Mexico State (36-22-1) collected 14 hits, five by leadoff man Nate Shaver. But Gallagher helped limit the team's 3-4-5 hitters to just 2 for 16. Designated hitter Leo Aguirre, the No. 3 hitter, went 0 for 6 and struck out four times.
"You have to give the guy credit. He just willed that ball in there,'' UH coach Mike Trapasso said of Gallagher.
"The key was the pitch sequence,'' said Gallagher. "I wanted to keep the ball away, force contact, make them chase pitches.
"I've had a rollercoaster season," Gallagher added. "I've had good outings and bad outings. I wanted to make sure I came in today and threw strikes. I was gassed toward the end, but I was able to get through it.''
Gallagher's effort helped to keep Trapasso from using two other key relievers, right-handers Connor Little and Lenny Linsky, keeping them fresh for the remainder of the tournament.
But pity poor Daniel Simon. The right-handed reliever for New Mexico State was the sacrificial lamb, throwing 115 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on eight hits. Those kind of numbers usually are reserved for starters.