Rainbows beat Fresno State to win WAC baseball title, earn NCAA berth
Hawai'i captured its first Western Athletic Conference baseball tournament championship since 1992 by knocking off four-time defending champion Fresno State, 9-6, today at Hohokam Park in Mesa, Ariz.
The Rainbows (33-26) will wait tomorrow morning to learn which of 16 regional sites they will be assigned to. The West regions hosting tournaments are UCLA, Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State. The Bulldogs (38-25) are not expected to get an at-large bid.
Sam Spangler (5-6) allowed a run, two hits and two walks with one strikeout in 3 1/3 innings of relief of starter Josh Slaats, who gave up three runs in three-plus innings for UH. Lenny Linsky pitched the final 2 2/3 innings, allowing two unearned runs, for his 12th save.
The Bulldogs pulled to within one in the top of the eighth, when they cashed in on fielding errors by shortstop Greg Garcia and Kolten Wong when both runners who reached on the errors scored on a triple by Steve Detwiler against Linsky.
It was the fourth and fifth errors by UH in the game. But the Rainbows made up for it in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single from David Freitas and RBI hit by Collin Bennett to make it 9-6.
Fresno State threatened with two out in the top of the ninth when Bobby Coyle singled and took third on Jordan Ribera's double, but Brennan Gowens grounded out to end the game.
Jeffrey Van Doornum batteds 3 for 4, drove in three runs for the Rainbows, including a booming two-out, solo home run to dead center — estimated at 470 feet — in the first inning to give UH a 1-0 lead.
But the Bulldogs scored twice in the top of the second to take a 2-1 lead.
The Rainbows capitalized on the second-inning ineffectiveness of FSU starter Derek Benny (1-3), who was tagged for four runs in one-plus innings. Benny hit Greg Garcia and Collin Bennett before walking Sean Montplaisir to load the bases before being pulled for Greg Gonzalez. The Rainbows cashed in the freebies and added another run off Gonzalez in a four-run second that pulled UH ahead, 5-2.
The Bulldogs pulled to 5-3 on a third-inning sacrifice fly by Bobby Coyle, but UH added two in the sixth to cushion its lead to 7-3. Fresno State got one in the top of the seventh to pull to 7-4.
It was the third consecutive day in which the teams met.
In Friday's winner's bracket game, the Rainbows beat Fresno State, 11-3. But Fresno State then won two games Saturday, including a 14-5 victory over UH to force today's winner-take-all game.