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Through fright and flight, Vuls salvage split with HPU

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo's baseball team didn't have as much to celebrate as it did Saturday, but a 9-7 come-from-behind win Sunday in the second game of a doubleheader against Hawaii Pacific raised the Vuls' spirits.

The UH-Hilo baseball team won a wild one against Hawaii Pacific 9-7 in a PacWest Hawaii pod game on Sunday, rallying from a three-run deficit with a five-run sixth inning, to claim a split at its campus field.

In Game 1, Cole Kashimoto drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning for a 7-4 HPU win. Kashimoto faced Cody Hirata with the bases loaded and two out with the Vulcans ahead 3-2. Kashimoto doubled past third baseman Trey Yukumoto to score two runs and push the Sharks ahead 4-3.

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That pumped up the enthusiasm on HPU’s bench, and the Sharks tacked on three more runs in the last three innings.

Kashimoto batted 1 for 3 with two RBIs, Noah Blythe and Brandon Booz had two hits each for the Sharks. Nico Gomez pitched 4 1/3 innings of one-run relief for the win.

“I liked our fight and the opportunity for our guys to come through against some adversity,” HPU coach Dallas Correa said. “We have to grind. Hilo’s a good team, very good pitching, very good bats for them. Our guys needed a spark and Cole was our spark.”

Chris Aubort, Casey Yamauchi, Ryan Cho, Lawson Faria, and Bradyn Yoshida had two hits each and Kobie Russell went 3 for 5 to lead the Vulcans, who pounded 14 hits but left 13 runners on base.

Takashi Umino, who replaced Hirata, took the loss with two runs allowed in one inning. Cameron Scudder started and went 5 2/3 innings and surrendered three runs.

Game 2 was far more fun and entertaining. It was also a display to all Little Leaguers and Pony players on what not to do. There were a combined seven hit batters, five walks, five errors, and a whopping seven unearned runs.

The game ended when the Vulcans (3-4, 3-1 PacWest) allowed a runner to get thrown out at home in the sixth. Relax, they didn’t suffer a brain cramp. The Sharks (1-7, 1-3) had a flight to catch.

OK, fast forward to the most exciting part. Cho was at the plate in the sixth with the bases loaded and two out. The count was 1-2 against Grant Dragmire.

Dragmire, a hard-throwing senior right-hander, threw something down and away, a good pitch, but Cho put a better swing on it. He rifled a line drive over Kashimoto’s head, and all three runs scored. Cho stood on third with a triple and two minutes later allowed himself to get tagged out at home.

“It was unbelievable. We went up and down. They gave us the game. We gave them back the game,” UHH coach Kallen Miyataki said. “We had so many mental errors as well as physical errors. It was a matter of who would make the least amount of errors. What I’m proud of is we came through in the clutch.

“Their pitchers threw hard, a couple threw 90 mph from their back-end guys. But we kept hanging in there. All the credit to the hitting coaches and everybody else.”

The Vuls had two runners picked off on the bases. But that’s small potatoes compared to the Sharks. HPU starter Gavin Pringle could be first in line at the Complaints Department. He pitched five innings and gave up four runs, all unearned, thanks to two throwing errors.

UHH starter Brandyn Lee-Lehano didn’t have his best stuff and gave up five runs, one unearned, in three innings. Aaron Davies followed and was victimized for two unearned runs in two innings. Closer John Kea made his first appearance in the series, pitched one perfect inning, and got the win.

Teppei Fukuda batted 3 for 4 with an RBI and Cho was 1 for 3 with three RBIs to lead the Vuls, who had two hits entering the sixth, when they piled up six hits and scored five runs.

D.J. Stephens went 2 for 3 with two RBIs to lead the Sharks, who didn’t get a chance to pitch Zakaia Michaels, a 2020 Kamehameha-Hawaii graduate and former ace.

It was unfortunate that Cho’s triple sailed over Kashimoto’s head. He misjudged the velocity of the blast and it rocketed to the fence. Kashimoto, who’s 5 feet 3, has faced questions all his life about his size, not that it bothers him.

“All my life I’ve been told I’m too small,” said Kashimoto, who likes 5-6 Houston Astro Jose Altuve because of his size, not his sign-stealing ability. He also likes another undersized second baseman, Milwaukee Brewer Kolten Wong, known most of all for his hard work. “I like Kolten Wong, too, another small guy, who plays with heart.”

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To all the undersized players, who think they’re too small for college ball, Kashimoto offers simple advice:

“You just have to play with heart and try hard,” he said. “Working hard every day that will pay off.”

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