UH-Hilo’s comeback magic against Fresno Pacific came with an expiration date but its spunk has developed into a handy habit.
The Vulcans scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Sunbirds 5-4 in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday at Wong Stadium for their most exciting win of the season.
With the bases full and one out, Kyle Yamada tripled to right field and scored the game-winner on an error.
It made a winner of Travis Burleson, who went the distance and scattered six hits. He allowed four runs and three walks and struck out four.
RJ Romo batted 2 for 4, and Yamada was 1 for 3 with four RBIs for the Vulcans, who couldn’t figure out Sundbirds starter Alex Garcia, who went the seven-inning distance for the 8-2 Game 2 win.
Fresno Pacific jumped on starter Jacob Morales for five runs in two innings. Kekai Mahiko gave a run and didn’t record an out. Devan Elson pitched two scoreless innings, and closer John Kea gave up two runs in three innings.
The pitching staff was short-armed with starter Dylan Spain out with an arm strain, forcing coach Kallen Miyataki to extend his closer.
Garcia is a little guy, who stands just 5 feet 9 but never let the Vulcans get comfortable at the plate. He allowed five hits and three walks and struck out four. Garcia wasn’t overpowering but he was effective. He stranded seven on base.
Still, the Vuls won three of four in the series, and that had Miyataki looking at the bright spots.
“I wouldn’t say it was the best win, but it was the most exciting. I would say that this team has the capability to be exciting,” he said. “We’re slowly coming around, and we’re young and we’re old. What I like about is that they don’t give up. We’re going to take our lumps along the way. We did that at the beginning of the year.
“I’m still searching right now for my middle relief. We played well this week and put things together, so I see a lot of bright spots.”
Rustin Ho batted 2 for 3, the only Vulcan to pair hits.
It was a good at-bat by Yamada in the fourth with UHH down 6-1 and one out. Garcia threw a changeup, low and away, and Sugimoto, a left-handed hitter, swung and missed, running the count to 2-2.
Garcia then fired a fastball that Sugimoto fouled off. Garcia followed up with another changeup. It wasn’t as good as the previous one. It was high and hittable, and Yamada kept his hands back and slapped it to left center for an RBI single that cut the lead to 6-2.
Casey Yamauchi followed and grounded out, but at least the Vulcans scratched Garcia for two runs.
In the top of the fifth, Kea was brought in to shut down the Sundbirds but immediately ran into trouble. He allowed a single and an error put runners on first and third.
But good fortune momentarily was on UHH’s side.
Fresno Pacific attempted a suicide squeeze, and the runner was tagged out at home. Then Kea got Garrett Cooper, the No. 9 hitter, to ground into an inning-ending double play.
That kept the score at 6-2 with nine outs left to stage another comeback.
In the bottom of the fifth, Kobie Russell singled. Then Kamalu Neal smashed a hard liner to third, and Jared Aguilar fired to first to double off Russell for an inning-ending double play.
The Sunbirds scratched Kea for a run in the sixth. Ross Dodds singled, Brian Hefner singled, and Aguilar hit a run-scoring single for a 7-2 lead. But Hefner was tagged out when he overran third base.
Fresno State’s Ross Dodds crushed a solo homer in the seventh when Kea missed his spot.
In the bottom of the seventh, Yamada reached on an infield error with one out. Yamauchi flied out, and RJ Romo grounded out to third.
On Friday, UHH beat Fresno State 9-1. Christian Sadler pitched seven innings of one-run ball, and Brandyn Lee-Lehano and Kekai Mahiko each fired a scoreless inning.
Romo batted 2 for 4 with two RBIs, and John Bicas added two RBIs.