It sure has been a busy week surrounding Hawaii athletics. A new men’s basketball coach has been hired, a women’s basketball coach has decided to stay, spring practice has begun for the football team, and the No. 1 men’s volleyball team in the country bids aloha to its senior class this weekend.
And oh by the way, there’s a pretty big baseball series about to get underway in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Hawaii, which is coming off a three-game sweep of UC Davis, can play itself into the conference race with a series win against the struggling Mustangs, who have been the biggest disappointment in the Big West this season.
Cal Poly started the year ranked in the top 20 but is just 11-18 overall and 1-2 in conference after losing two of three to Cal State Fullerton.
This Hawaii team has been difficult to figure out. There were high expectations to start the year, but two one-run losses to Oregon, two losses to Hofstra, a 2-5 road trip, and two losses to a bad New Mexico State team made for a rough nonconference season. UH played well to open Big West play at UC Irvine, but couldn’t break through against the Anteaters, getting swept for the third straight year. With its back against the wall, Hawaii came through with a much-needed sweep of UC Davis last weekend to avoid falling out of contention after two weeks yet again.
Where are the Rainbows going to go from here? Will they continue what they’ve shown the last two weeks, or was last weekend just a tease? After Cal Poly, Hawaii has six consecutive home games. It’d be huge to get above .500 heading into that stretch, but it’ll take some good baseball to beat a team that despite its record, is still extremely talented and dangerous.
Interesting early score from the day: UC Davis 3, Cal State Fullerton 2.
Hawaii 12-20, 3-3
Stephen Ventimilia, 2B (.258, 4 2b, 1 3b, 12 runs)
Alan Baldwin, RF (.280, 3 2b, 2 3b, 1 HR, 11 RBIs)
Kaeo Aliviado, CF (.290, 6 2b, 1 3b, 4 HR, 22 RBIs)
Alex Sawelson, DH (.282, 3 2b, 10 RBIs)
Eric Ramirez, 1B (.291, 4 2b, 22 RBIs)
Marcus Doi, LF (.200, 8 runs)
JJ Kitaoka, 3B (.231, 3 2b, 1 3b, 1 HR, 17 RBIs)
Chayce Ka’aua, C (.238, 7 2b, 13 RBIs)
Jacob Sheldon-Collins, SS (.263, 3 2b, 1 3b, 15 runs)
RHP L.J. Brewster (4-3, 2.21 ERA, 53 IP, 34 K)
Cal Poly 11-18, 1-2
Mark Mathias, 2B (.315, 4 2b, 19 runs)
Peter Van Gansen, SS (.350, 6 2b, 2 3b, 15 RBIs)
Brian Mundell, DH (.356, 5 2b, 4 HR, 16 RBIs)
Zack Zehner, LF (.282, 5 2b, 2 3b, 5 HR, 27 RBIs)
Jordan Ellis, CF (.303, 6 2b, 2 3b, 15 runs)
Brett Barbier, C (.234, 1 2b, 1 3b, 2 HR, 6 RBIs)
John Schuknecht, RF (.200, 2 2b, 1 3b, 1 HR, 11 RBIs)
Tommy Pluschkell, 3B (.274, 3 2b, 1 3b, 11 runs)
Ryan Drobny, 1B (.237, 2 2b, 1 HR, 10 runs)
RHP Casey Bloomquist (3-2, 2.56 ERA, 45 2/3 IP, 38 K)
UH down in order in the top of the first. Brewster with a leadoff walk to Mathias, who takes second on a balk but is stranded as Brewster got a big 3-2 strikeout of Mundell looking.
TOP 2: Sawelson with UH’s first hit of the game to lead off and Ramirez gets ahead 3-0 but hits into a double play. Doi reaches on an infield single to break a 1-for-15 skid. Kitaoka singles to put runners on first and third but on a ball in the dirt, Kitaoka gets hung up between first and second and is picked off. Bad mistake there. UH with three hits in the inning but can’t score.
TOP 3: Ka’aua leads off with a single back up the middle for UH’s fourth hit already. Sheldon-Collins drops a sacrifice bunt and the catcher, Barbier, throws it away from first. Sheldon-Collins gets to second with Ka’aua at third. Ventimilia grounds out on the first pitch and the runners hold. Baldwin behind 1-2 but hits a grounder back up the middle. Diving stop by the shortstop but no throw as everyone is safe on the infield single, driving in Ka’aua for a 1-0 UH lead. Baldwin takes off on a pitch in the dirt and is thrown out at second. Another mistake on the bases. Aliviado grounds out to the pitcher. The Baldwin play is recorded as a caught stealing. Hard to see on the Internet feed but hard to imagine he took off on the pitch and was thrown out on a ball that bounced in the dirt.
TOP 4: Sawelson with a leadoff single as UH gets the first guy on again. Six hits already for UH. Ramirez draws a walk and Bloomquist clearly isn’t himself. He threw 7 2/3 shutout innings in a 5-0 win over Fullerton last Friday. Doi bunts the runners over for the first out. Kitaoka falls behind 0-2 but a breaking ball in the dirt gets past the catcher and Sawelson scores. Ramirez to third. Kitaoka strikes out. Ka’aua rips a ball to third and Pluschkell makes a great backhanded stop and throws him out to save a run and rob a hit.
BOTTOM 4: Brewster gives up a single and a walk with one out but then gets back-to-back strikeouts to end it.
TOP 5: Sheldon-Collins and Ventimilia single to lead off the fifth. Runners at the corners, nobody out for Baldwin, who strikes out looking. We’ve lost the video feed from the Cal Poly web site but Aliviado with a single to drive in Sheldon-Collins. Sawelson gets an RBI groundout to bring in the fourth run and Ramirez ties Aliviado for the team led in RBIs with 23 with a two-out single to bring in Aliviado. It’s 5-0. Doi with a single to give UH 11 hits now.
BOTTOM 5: Brewster gives up a single with one out and issues his fourth walk of the game. Mundell comes up with runners on the corners and crushes a 3-2 fastball deep over the wall in center. First homer allowed by Brewster is a three-run shot and Cal Poly is back in it.
Casey Bloomquist: 5 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.
TOP 6: Taylor Chris on in relief. All 11 hits given up by Bloomquist were singles. Ka’aua greets Chris with a single to left for his second hit and moves to second on the bunt by Sheldon-Collins. Nothing going for UH as Ventimilia strikes out swinging and Baldwin flies out to left.
BOTTOM 6: Hawaii is assessed a ball for apparently not being ready in time. Brewster then walks the guy on three pitches and throws another ball and he’s done. Matt Valencia in with the tying run at the plate and he walks the first guy he faces. UH puts the tying runs on bases via a walk and the Mustangs bunt them over. Drobny with a double inside the line in right field to score two and takes third on a throwing error. Valencia walks Mathias, who steals second without a throw. Van Gansen singles on a 3-2 pitch and the Mustangs take their first lead, 6-5. That’s it for Valencia, whose only out recorded was on a bunt. Cody Culp in. Culp gives up a sacrifice fly to Mundell. Diving catch by Aliviado ends the inning.
TOP 8: Cal Poly brings in its closer, Danny Zandona, for a potential two-inning save and Zandona strikes out two in a 1-2-3 inning.
Zandona strikes out five in two innings to pick up the save as Cal Poly beats Hawaii 7-5.