By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The University of Hawaii at Hilo baseball team did everything but win to kick off coach Joey Estrella’s 37th and final season in his farewell retirement tour.
Augustana defeated the Vulcans 4-3 in the first game of a nonconference Division II doubleheader on Friday before 153 fans at Wong Stadium. In the second game, Kim hit a three-run home run and Seamus Yoneshige struck out 10 and didn't allow an earned run in 5 innings as the Vuls scored seven first-inning runs and won 10-1.
The Vulcans (1-1) and Vikings (2-5) play a doubleheader at 11 a.m. today at Wong to conclude the series.
UHH fared well in all three phases of the game. The pitching didn’t beat itself, issuing four walks, none of which scored. The offense accounted for nine hits. The defense was flawless and turned two double plays, plus catcher Greg Cleary gunned down a runner attempting to steal.
But the Vuls couldn’t solve relief pitcher Bennett Johnson, who pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings for the victory. Side-arming right-hander Derek Quame got a one-out save, retiring UHH’s Austin Cusack with two runners on in the ninth. Jordan Milbrath, who went five innings and gave up three runs, started and posted similar numbers to UHH starter Dane Kinoshita.
At least UHH made it interesting in its last at-bat in the ninth with two out. Sam Kim singled and stole second. Then Brad Fairweather took one for the team and got on by a hit by pitch, chasing Johnson. Cusack worked the count to 2-1, but rolled a grounder to third base.
Kinoshita got stuck with a tough no-decision. He went five innings, allowed three runs on sevens hits and one walk, and struck out three, surviving a rocky first inning, but putting his team in a position to win after his departure.
Patrick Fletcher took the loss. He went two innings and allowed a run. Gavin Kinoshita followed with two scoreless innings.
The Vulcans fell behind early when Kinoshita allowed two runs in the first inning, though not much fault of his own. The senior right-hander did his job. He pitched to contact, but, unfortunately, the Vikings had five seeing-eye singles, including a two-run base hit by Nate Hawes, all out of the reach of hustling defenders. He gave up his final run in the fifth on Kye Winter’s RBI double.
In the second inning, UHH showed abundant plate discipline and dedication to the team concept, when Cusack walked and Cleary took a hit by pitch to set up Zach Hamasaki’s two-run double. Hamasaki slashed an 0-2 pitch down the third-base line, drawing enthusiastic roars from the Vulcans’ dugout and their fans seated above them.
The Vuls couldn’t score with the bases loaded in the third, despite a well-intentioned effort. Cleary grounded into an inning-ending double play, but the senior catcher ran hard down the line, getting thrown out by shortstop Zach Dibble. That was only a temporary setback because the home team displayed the proper mechanics of small-ball to seize the lead in the next inning.
Keenan Kaluau led off the fourth with a double. Then Jordan Murai put down a sacrifice bunt, moving Hamasaki to third. Hamasaki stepped into the hitting hero’s role, again, ripping a run-scoring single off Milbrath’s glove.
It was 3-2, UHH ahead and looking to add a few more run. Unfortunately, Augustana left fielder Marcus O’Neill has a pretty strong and accurate arm. He threw out Hamasaki for the third out at third base on Kim’s single to left.
If not, runners would have been on first and second with cleanup hitter Fairweather up next. He was 0 for 1 at the time, a groundout and walk. However, he grounded out to first in the fifth, a golden scoring opportunity for the Vuls when Keenan Nishioka and Cleary singled with two out. Then Kaluau singled to left and Nishioka rounded third base, but tripped and was tagged out. UHH argued he was obstructed, but the protest was denied.
UHH’s defense was flawless and shortstop Kaluau was behind two inning-ending double plays. With one on in the third and one out, he caught a liner and doubled off the runner at first. In the sixth, after Kinoshita yielded his only walk, Fletcher replaced him and pitched into trouble. He allowed a double and walk before Zach Dibble dribbled a ball to Kaluau, who stepped on second and fired to first.
Hamasaki batted 2 for 4 with three RBIs and Kaluau was 3 for 4 to lead UHH.
Winter went 2 for 4 with two RBIs to lead the Vikings, who banged out 12 hits, all singles, except for Winter’s double.
UHH took out is frustration early in the nightcap. Augustana pitcher Ben Heairet, who lasted just two-thirds of an inning, walked Rich Mariano and Hamasaki to open the bottom of the first, and Kim's blast quickly put the Vulcans ahead 3-0.
UHH then loaded the bases, and after a Tyler Nitahara sacrifice fly and an RBI double by Garrett Micheels, Mariano followed with a two-run single.
Freshman Keenan Nishioka, a Hilo High graduate, added a two-run triple in the second. Nishioka and John Abreu both went 2 for 3.
Yoneshige, a junior left-hander, allowed just a hit and one walk.
Augustana 200 010 100 — 4 12 3
UHH 020 100 000 — 3 9 0
Augustana 000 010 0 —1 3 1
UHH 721 000 x —10 8 3