After taking a series of steps forward this season, UH-Hilo’s baseball team took two steps back Wednesday.
Biola scored seven unanswered runs for a 7-3 victory, dealing a setback to the Vulcans’ postseason hopes, which already seemed tenuous to begin with after the roll out of the latest rankings earlier in the day.
UHH (25-17) had won 15 of 16 games and jumped out to a 3-0 lead before things turned south in the first game of a four-game series in La Mirada, Calif.
Joey Magro hit a three-run home run off starter Jacob Morales to tie the game in the third, and the Eagles (27-18) scored the go-ahead run in the seventh off Devan Elson when Jerron Largusa doubled and scored on a one-out single by RJ Bates.
Lights out in his last outing, Elson (0-3) took the loss.
Jaryn Kanbara hit his third home run to give UHH a 1-0 lead in the second, and later in the inning Nick Lugo doubled home Rustin Ho, who had singled.
Casey Yamauchi had three hits for the Vuls. Yamauchi singled in the third, moved to third on RJ Romo’s hit and scored on Kobie Russell’s sacrifice fly.
Biola beat UHH for the first the fourth time in five games this season.
The Vuls had gone 21-8 since the last times the two teams meet, but despite their hot stretch they failed to crack the top eight Wednesday morning in the West Region rankings – and only the top six go. UHH hoped winning three of four at then-No. 2 Point Loma last weekend to climb above the Sea Lions in the Pacific West Conference standings would help them make a dent in the rankings, but Point Loma only fell to third.
The Vuls are being penalized by their strength of schedule and were just 4-8 against .500 teams to begin the day.
In the eighth, Brandyn Lee-Lehano gave up home runs to Robert Anthony Cruz and Largusa. .
Morales (three innings, six hits, three runs) also was lights out in his last outing, getting a start in place of Christian Sadler, who came on and pitched two scoreless innings.
The Vulcans finished with 12 hits – two apiece from Romo, Kanbara and Ho – but stranded 11 runners. They loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but Kyle Yamada grounded out on a 3-2 pitch.
UHH’s postseason hopes appear stronger in softball.
In the clubhouse at 31-17, the Vulcans remained ninth in the West Region rankings for the third week in a row, and they’ll hope other teams fall so they can climb one more spot.
No. 7 Azusa Pacific (30-16), a team the Vuls beat three times in four games on its home field, plays Biola in doubleheader Thursday, and No. 8 Sonoma State plays at the six-team California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.