From Steffen Miner’s run-scoring single in the third to Sam Kim’s two-run double an inning later to Seamus Yoneshige’s workhorse effort on the mound, this victory was a long time coming for the University of Hawaii at Hilo baseball team.
The Vulcans produced in the clutch Wednesday to defeat frequent tormentor Dixie State 7-4 in Riverside, Calif.
“Finally,” coach Joey Estrella said. “It’s been happening all year: guys can’t get clutch hits. We finally bunched some hits together and we’re able to score some runs.”
The Vulcans (7-20, 6-19 Pacific West Conference) lost the first game 5-1 in a contest that picked up in the seventh inning after a March 11 rain delay at Wong Stadium in Hilo.
Along with three hits apiece from Miner, Kim and Tyler Nitahara, Yoneshige (3-4) helped UHH rebound by keeping the Red Storm (17-6, 10-5) at bay into the seventh. The junior left-hander had been so smooth in retiring the first two batters in the top of the seventh that the coaching staff hardly noticed that his pitch total reached a robust 133.
“Honestly, we blew that one,” Estrella said. “The way he was command, we had no idea he’d thrown that many.”
One out from victory, Yoneshige hit a batter and walked another before Jordan Hanley’s single cut UHH’s lead to 7-2. Richie Mariano came on in relief and allowed Kevin Kline’s two-run triple, but he induced a flyout to close the door.
Yoneshige won for the first time in five decisions, striking seven and allowing eight hits, four runs and two walks.
“He finally pitched like he’s capable of,” Estrella said.
Estrella said a “jet stream” in the outfield made for hitters’ conditions, turning singles into doubles. UHH took advantage by scoring all their runs in the middle innings.
Keenan Nishioka and Kim started off UHH’s three-run rally in the third with two-out singles. Nishioka scored to tie the game at 1-1 when Brad Fairweather reached on catcher’s interference and Miner and Cleary followed with RBI singles.
Cleary finished with three RBIs, including a two-run double in the fourth that punctuated a four-run uprising. Cleary and Nitahara opened the fourth with singles and scored on Kim’s double.
Austin Cusack finished 1 for 3 with a walk as part of the Vulcans 14-hit attack and scored two runs.
‘This is busy time for us,” said Estrella, whose team team will stay in Riverside and open a four-game series with second-place California Baptist on Friday. “It was huge. To get the victory feels great.”
Dixie State, which had tagged the Vuls 15-0 during a the first game of a doubleheader sweep March 10 in Hilo, committed four errors. Starter Bryce Anderson (1-3) was touched for 11 hits and seven runs — two earned — in four innings. He walked one and struck out three.
Hanley was 3 for 4 and Kline was 2 for 3.
The first game resumed in the seventh with Dixie State ahead 3-1, and Josh Mooney worked three scoreless innings and allowed only a hit to Cleary and a walk to get the save. Austin Christiansen, who had allowed only an unearned run in six innings when the rain started falling March 11 at Wong Stadium, improved to 4-0.
Jeremy Dela Cruz fell to 0-5 for UHH, while shortstop John Abreu was retired in both his at-bats and finished 3 for 5.
Dixie State 000 010 211 — 5 12 1
UHH 100 000 000 —1 8 3
Dixie State 100 000 3 — 4 9 4
UHH 003 400 x — 7 14 0
The Lady Vulcans finished last out of 18 teams at the Anuenue Spring Break Classic on the Bay Course at Kapalua, Maui.
Jade Salvador (11-over 83) carded her highest round of the tournament but led UHH in a tie for 69th in the 95-player field at 18-over 234. Erika Morihiro and Nyssa Aoki each finished with 76s.
No. 11 UCLA (10-under 854) edged No. 10 Washington by four strokes to win the team title, while Pepperdine’s Grace Na pocketed a four-stroke victory after closing with a 68 to finish 10-under.
Rounding out the top five were No. 17 Arizona State (862), Pepperdine (869) and Oregon (886). The University of Hawaii (930) was 17th, 10 shots ahead of UHH.
Also for the Vulcans, Kristen Sawada finished with a 78 to finish 20-over and was followed by Morihiro (23-over), Kacie Harada (27-over) and Aoki (31-over).
Shannon Abarra (28-over) competed as an individual.