After clinging to a one-run lead for over six innings, the Hawaii baseball team gave up a run in each of the final three innings to take a 3-1 loss to the North Dakota State Bison, the Rainbow Warriors’ first loss of the season.
The loss came in spite of a strong performance by starting pitcher Logan Pouelsen. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native pitched for 6 1/3 innings, throwing a total of 92 pitches. He gave up just one run on three hits, with a career-high eight strikeouts. Pouelsen has not walked a batter in two starts (12 1/3 innings), and he brought his season ERA down from 6.00 to 3.65.
“He was outstanding. He gave you everything you could ask for,” head coach Mike Trapasso said. “In a couple weeks, with a couple more starts under his belt, we’ll let him stay out there and try to get through that (seventh) inning. In that situation, I wanted to get him to 90 pitches, and he threw 92. And, so early in the season, I didn’t want to push it any more than that.”
Pouelsen joined the Rainbow Warriors (2-1) in 2017. As a freshman, he appeared in 37 games, with 18 starts at designated hitter and 12 starts at first base. He hit .276 that season, with 10 RBIs and 16 runs scored. He finished with two home runs and six doubles.
By the time 2018 rolled around, Pouelsen was entrusted with a number of roles, including designated hitter, first base, and third base. He also began pitching for the team, appearing in 13 games, with five starts on the mound. One of his highlights that season was his first career complete game, in just his second start.
As a junior in 2019, Pouelsen continued to grow as a pitcher, starting nine games out of a total of 16 appearances that season. He finished with a career-high 32 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings pitched. He also improved his season ERA from 5.03 as a sophomore to 4.22 as a junior.
“Last year we saw, toward the end of the year, he was really our most consistent guy,” Trapasso said of Pouelsen’s expanding role. “He didn’t really get into the rotation until about the halfway point of last year, yet he ended up putting together probably four of our top five or six starts on the whole season. We know what he’s capable of doing.”
Now in his final season, Pouelsen’s role with the team has once again evolved. He was named the team’s opening day starter against Hawaii Hilo. Despite giving up a two-run home run in the first inning, Pouelsen had a strong performance against the Vulcans, striking out a then-career-best seven batters without a walk. He was again tasked with opening a series, and responded with a better performance in his second start.
“Now, he’s more pitcher-centric. That’s where he’s going to play at the next level. That’s his position,” Trapasso said of his expectations of Pouelsen’s season. “And he’s just poised. He’s a year older and wiser. He’s gone out there now and given us 12-plus innings with no walks. That’s pretty impressive.”
He started the day strong with a quick 1-2-3 inning right off the bat. He gave up his first hit of the day in the second inning, a Jack Simonsen single. Nothing came of the knock, as Simonsen was gunned down by catcher Dallas Duarte on a pickoff attempt. Pouelsen would go on to retire the side in innings three and six, giving up just one single in the fifth.
Nearing 90 pitches but still going strong, Pouelsen was sent back out to the mound to start the seventh inning. However, the cracks began to show at that point, as he gave up a double to lead off the inning. He then retired the next batter on a groundout, but the leadoff runner advanced to third. With the tying run just 90 feet away from home, Pouelsen was replaced by lefty reliever Jeremy Wu-Yelland. Pouelsen headed back to the dugout to raucous applause from the Les Murakami Stadium crowd.
Wu-Yelland retired the first batter he faced, looking to preserve Pouelsen’s scoreless effort. It wasn’t meant to be, however, as a wild pitch sent the runner home for Pouelsen’s first earned run of the day.
“I just go about it like every game is the last game. Just focused on each and every start, and trying to do whatever I can to help my team win,” Pouelsen said. “At the end of the day, if I pitched well but the team didn’t win, I’m still going to be disappointed. It’s a team game.”
The lackluster ‘Bows offense contributed to UH squandering the slim lead Pouelsen had held for so long. Wu-Yelland gave up an RBI single in the eighth inning for North Dakota State’s first lead of the game, while freshman and Kamehameha-Hawaii product Tai Atkins gave up a sac fly in the ninth inning to all but seal the game.
“It wasn’t what we planned. They executed,” Pouelsen said of the loss. ”I just try to go out there, and have my defense help me. That’s exactly what they did. I couldn’t have asked for a better defense behind me. (NDSU) just executed when they needed to execute.”
Offensively, sophomore left fielder Scotty Scott and redshirt junior first baseman Alex Baeza led the way for the ‘Bows with two hits each on four at-bats apiece. Scott scored Hawaii’s lone run of the day, while also picking up a double on the opening at-bat.
“After this, we’ll go to the locker room, flush it, go to bed, and wake up the next day knowing that we have a game. It’s a new game every single time,” Pouelsen said.
First pitch of the second game between Hawaii and North Dakota State will be at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at Les Murakami Stadium.