Hawaii baseball: Brandon Ross’s near-perfect outing wasted in series-tying loss to Washington State

Brandon Ross pitched against North Dakota State on Feb. 17. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

After leading for seven innings in the series finale, the Hawaii baseball team gave up six runs in the final two innings to lose a 6-5 heartbreaker to the Washington State Cougars. Washington State narrowly avoided the series defeat to the Rainbow Warriors (7-3), as the come-from-behind victory tied up the series at 2-2.

The loss came in spite of a near-perfect performance for starting pitcher Brandon Ross (1-0). Making his second start of the season, the junior college transfer looked untouchable for seven scoreless innings. Ross gave up just two hits, while picking up a career-best five strikeouts. He also walked a pair of runners.

“I felt good,” Ross said. “Last week was a good way to start off. I sat down with (senior catcher) Tyler Murray and really went over what I did wrong last week. With him and the help of coach (Mike Trapasso), just looking at what I did last week, worked on it this week, and I was able to go out there and produce. I felt confident, I felt relaxed. Probably the most relaxed I’ve felt on the mound. It was fun to go out there and dominate for seven innings.”

For much of the game, Ross was in line for the win, his second in two starts. The ‘Bows offense took a 4-0 lead early on in the game, scoring at least one run in each of the first three innings, including a two-run second inning. Ross held that lead for much of the game, but things fell apart for the ‘Bows in the seventh inning. By that point, Ross had run up his pitch count considerably. He was taken off the mound, as the ‘Bows were content to leave the game in the hands of the bullpen, which had a strong performance just a night ago to sealed a Game 3 victory. Things didn’t go quite as planned.

“He was good. He deserved a better fate,” Trapasso said of Ross’s start. “Should have gotten the win. But it’s a bad loss. Bad loss on us. Bullpen didn’t make pitches. That’s on us. The bullpen won it last night, lost it tonight.”

Sophomore Li‘i Pontes and freshman Vince Reilly combined to give up six runs (three runs each) across the final two innings, while the bottom of the ‘Bows batting order were retired in succession in the ninth inning to hand the game to Washington State.

Following the game, Trapasso said that the target pitch count for Ross was 85 pitches. By the time the seventh inning rolled around, Ross had thrown 97 pitches. His strong performance on the mound convinced Trapasso to allow him to pitch a bit longer and finish the seventh, but 100 pitches was a threshold he was not willing to cross.

“In my head, I wanted to go the whole game,” Ross admitted. “But every starting pitcher has that mentality. You want to finish what you start, just having that mentality through the entire thing.”

Ross has yet to give up a run for the ‘Bows since arriving in Manoa following a year at Riverside Community College. In his first start for Hawaii, he gave up just one hit, tallying three strikeouts in three innings pitched against North Dakota State. Opposing batters have combined for just a .094 batting average while facing Ross. In his lone season for Riverside CC, Ross made 13 appearances with five starts, striking out 41 batters and holding opposing batters to a .262 average.

The Rainbow Warriors will now head to Tennessee for a tough road test against defending College World Series champion Vanderbilt in a three-game series.