By Paul Honda
At the beginning and the end, big guys delivered the boom.
In between, Hawaii (8-2) got contributions up and down the lineup, as well as reserves, in a 13-0 shellacking of UH-Hilo. It was the first and only time in their weekend sweep that the Rainbow Warriors overwhelmed the Division II Vulcans — the kind of sunny Sunday afternoon that was as bright as the future for a team that gave nationally-ranked Arizona State all it could handle in the desert just a few weeks ago.
Big guy No. 1 was Logan Pouelsen, making his first appearance on the mound since suffering an elbow injury last season. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound right-hander endured Tommy John surgery, rehabbed and thought he was ready to go in the season-opening series at Arizona State.
Instead, the process lingered. He went three innings in Sunday’s start, allowing just one hit while striking out two and walking one.
“My fastball command in the pen was normal. My slider wasn’t too good, but on the mound, my was finding more of the zone than I expected. Good things are going to happen. It’s kind of odd that my fastball command wasn’t on as much as I hoped,” Pouelsen said.
Maybe some of it was adrenaline. Maybe he’s actually stronger than ever after months of rehab.
“The first batter, once I got out there, we’re back at the Les, it’s normal. Adrenaline pumps no matter what, but once I was out there, I felt good,” said Pauelsen, who threw 38 pitches, including 23 for strikes.
By the fourth frame, Saint Louis graduate Austin Teixeira was on the mound. The lanky lefty had gone nine innings without permitting an earned run, and extended that streak to 14 innings on Sunday. He fanned three Vulcans and walked one, allowing just one hit. Forty-four of his 66 pitches were strikes.
Cleanup hitter Kole Kaler went 4-for-4 with an RBI and two runs. No. 7 hitter Matt Campos matched his season total of hits, smacking a single and two doubles in his first three plate appearances. He finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
“First off, I couldn’t have done this without my team. Our pitchers did a good job getting outs. The guys before me do a good job of getting on,” the third baseman from Mid-Pacific said. “This is just getting into a groove, not trying to do much.”
The Vulcans pitched him inside consistently, and he responded by taking the fastball down the line.
“I was more reacting, up over the plate and taking advantage of the heaters. Just be ready for every pitching, trying to let the game come to you. That’s my mentality now,” Campos said.
If he sounds like a coach, maybe it’s because he was at the Hawaii Sandlot Classic last summer working out with high school prospects daily.
In the sixth, first baseman Alex Baeza capped a busy afternoon with a three-run shot over the right-field fence. The 6-4, 225-pound first baseman finished the game 2-for-2 with a walk, four RBIs and two runs scored.
An inning later, freshman Safea Villaruz-Mauai, one of Waiakea’s sluggers in recent years, bashed an opposite-field, three-run tater to left. The rare feat had the Warriors on their feet immediately as the 6-1, 240-pound first baseman — he replaced Baeza in the final three innings as Coach Mike Trapasso made several substitutions — rounded the bases.
“He is a big human being,” Pouelsen said of Villaruz-Mauai. “It’s hard even for a righty to go over left field. When you see him walking around. Our two big freshmen, him and Noa (Cardinez), they’re going to help us a lot this year.”
Campos saw his perfect day at the plate thwarted by Vulcans right fielder Chris Aubort, who made a superb diving catch near the line in Campos’ final at-bat.
“I tip my hat to that guy. I was just sticking to my approach, that’s all,” he said. “There’s not many chances you’re go to go 4-for-4, so you have fun with it.”
Sunday assignments could become a regular routine for Pouelsen.
“Hopefully, I have that Sunday start. This was just feeling it out. I was under the pitch count, which is good. We’ll just take each week like every other week with rehab stuff,” he said.
He was grateful to Trapasso for sticking by him, thanking him for “the opportunity to come back this year.”
Pauelsen is enjoying the adventure as much as any Warrior.
“It’s the last ride. We’re really a good team and can compete with every single team,” he said. “The guys around me keep me pumped up.”
Pouelsen is also taking up a new hobby.
“Someone asked, do I miss swinging the bat, and I do miss swinging the bat,” he said. “I’ve been more into golf. I don’t have any clubs, so I’m trying to work my way into that.”