Hawaii baseball: Early bullpen appearance yields career day for Cade Smith as ‘Bows clinch series in dramatic fashion

Hawaii's Cade Smith worked against Oregon in the fifth inning on Saturday. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

Needing just one game to clinch a series win over the Oregon Ducks, Game 3 began disastrously for the Hawaii baseball team. In relief of a starting pitcher who couldn’t hit the strike zone, junior Cade Smith was called into duty early in the 7-6 walk-off victory for the Rainbow Warriors (11-5) on Saturday night.

“Obviously I wasn’t expecting to go in in the first,” Smith said. “It was just all about giving the team the best chance to win. I let in a little more runs than I expected, but it turned out to be enough to give the team a chance to win, and that’s exactly what we did.”


Pitching six full innings in what was essentially a start — he came in for Brandon Ross when Ross issued three walks and hit a batter to begin the game — Smith dealt a career-best nine strikeouts, while walking a lone runner. He allowed just four hits and gave up two earned runs, while defensive mistakes allowed another two runs. For the most part, Smith held the Ducks in check, setting up the dramatic come-from-behind walk-off win.

“I didn’t even know that, honestly,” Smith said of his career-high nine strikeouts. “Just trying to execute every pitch the best I can, just one pitch at a time.”

Smith is in the midst of his third season with Hawaii baseball. He first arrived in Manoa by way of Vancouver, Canada, where he pitched for the Chilliwack Cougars club baseball team and the Canadian U18 Junior National team. With the Junior National team, he pitched against minor league teams from the Astros, Rays, Phillies, Tigers, Brewers, and Dodgers organizations. In the 2017 U18 baseball World Cup, he threw one strikeout with four hits and a walk in relief action to help Canada take Australia down. He also earned the 2017 College Prep League Provincial Final MVP while pitching for the Cougars. His work pitching for club and country earned him the attention of the Minnesota Twins, who selected him in the 16th round of the 2017 MLB Draft.

He chose to attend the University of Hawaii anyway, where he would go on to make 13 starts in 29 appearances. He struck out 91 batters over his first two seasons, including a then-career-high seven against Portland in his sophomore season. This season, he’s made four appearances for Hawaii. He’s started two games, but Saturday night’s appearance out of the bullpen was his longest outing at six innings. His previous season high was a four-inning appearance against Hawaii Hilo.

In spite of a series of defensive mistakes in the middle innings, head coach Mike Trapasso credited Smith with keeping Hawaii in the game for the eventual rally. Though he wasn’t credited with the win, Smith’s efforts paid off in a big way.

“Cade gave us a chance,” Trapasso said. “Frankly we sabotaged him defensively. We had a strike-three passed ball that (Tyler) Murray has to catch, and that cost us two runs. We were down, but Cade kept us in striking distance. He didn’t let it turn into a rout for them. We felt that we could eventually chip away.”

The ‘Bows picked up their fifth and sixth multi-run innings of the series, with a two-run fifth inning and a four-run seventh inning. The bursts of offense led to sophomore Tyler Best’s walk-off fielder’s choice RBI, sending pinch hitter Adam Fogel home to seal the win.

“The highlight of the night was not anything I did on the mound,” Smith said of his teammates. “The highlight was how the team came together and fought from behind, and competed. That’s what was really encouraging for me tonight.”

Hawaii, which has already clinched the series win, will return to Les Murakami on Sunday afternoon for the series finale against Oregon.