Bright spots can be hard to come by when an opponent scores six runs in the second inning, but one presented itself for the University of Hawaii baseball team: the bullpen.
UC Santa Barbara sent the Rainbow Warriors to their eighth loss in nine games Sunday with a 9-1 victory at Honolulu Les Murakami Stadium, where the home team at least got an encouraging effort for reliever Li’i Pontes.
The right-hander’s solid five 1/3-inning stint came one day after Logan Pouleson went five strong in relief before giving way to former Kamehameha-Hawaii standout Tai Atkins, who walked the tightrope for two innings to nail down his first career save.
Asked during the Spectrum postgame show Sunday if Pontes deserved a promotion, coach Mike Trapasso said, “He has to to with the way we started, three bad starts this weekend (Cade Halemanu, Austin Texeira, Jake Hymel) put ourselves in a hole.
“The silver lining was the bullpen. The entire weekend the bullpen pitched well. Really answered the bell when they struggled last weekend.”
Hymel (0-2) was hurt by shoddy defense Sunday from UH (12-10, 4-8 Big West), with three errors leading to five of his seven runs allowed being unearned in two innings of work. Featuring a live fastball, Pontes struck out five and yielded five hits and two runs.
Batting cleanup for the third game in a row, former Waiakea standout Jacob Igawa was 1 for 3 and reached when was hit by a pitch. Igawa was one of UH’s standouts in Saturday’s doubleheader split, flashing offense and defense.
Trying to end a seven-game losing streak, UH rallied back from a 4-0 deficit, with Waiakea alum Stone Miyao hitting a two-out RBI single to deliver a key insurance run in the fifth for a 6-5 lead.
The ‘Bows won by that margin thanks in large part to Igawa and Atkins.
The Gauchos (18-8, 9-3) finally got to Pouelsen for a run in the seventh, but Igawa threw out a runner at home from left field to preserve the lead.
Atkins earned the save, allowing one hit in two dramatic innings. Pinch runner Nick Oakley was stranded at third when Atkins struck out Gianni Bloom in the eighth. The Gauchos loaded the bases in the ninth but came away empty because of shortstop Kole Kaler’s diving catch in foul territory and right fielder Scotty Scott’s grab near the warning track in right-center.
Trapasso said Atkins, a left-hander, benefited from a technical change in which he now throws off the first-base side of the rubber. With his low-armed motion, the new cleat placement allows Atkins’ pitches a wider swath.
“He really throws across his body, ” Trapasso told Tribune News Service. “With that side-armed delivery, he’s releasing the ball about 2 feet behind the left-handed hitter. It’s going to be even more hooking to the glove side (of the catcher ), a natural hand path.”
Miyao drove in two runs.
The score of the Saturday’s first game: Gauchos 5, Igawa 4. Trailing 5-0, the Vulcans’ transfer hit an opposite-field blast in the sixth, his second three-run home run in as many weekends, to finally put UH on the scoreboard in the series. It was shut out in Friday’s series opener. Igawa tacked on a run-scoring single in the eighth.
On Sunday, first baseman Alex Baeza had his right (nonthrowing) arm in a sling after apparently injuring it while sliding back to first. Trapasso did not have an update on the junior’s playing status.
Trapasso was asked if Waiakea alum Safea Villaruz-Mauai, who came in for Baeza, would see increased in playing time at first base.
“We’ve got options,” he said. “Safea may not be the best option defensively, but we can put (Matt) Campos over there, we’ve got (Nainoa) Cardinez and (Konnor) Palmeiro, along with Safea. Those four guys will hold down the foprt over there until we find out what’s up with Alex.”
Also a designated hitter, Mauai went hitless in the series (0-7), but the freshman is still batting .324 (12 for 37), and he and Igawa (.310, 13 for 42) each have 11 RBIs, tied for third-best on the team.
The Rainbow Warriors hit the road to start a four-game series with UC Riverside (6-13, 4-8 Big West) Friday.
UH silences the Beach
Playing in an empty arena, Hawaii and Long Beach State added a “crowd ” noise controversy to their men’s volleyball rivalry on Saturday.
Acrimony over piped-in crowd noise in SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center—meant to provide a semblance of atmosphere as the season continues without fans in-house—seemed to intensify the play on the court and the top-ranked Rainbow Warriors outlasted the No. 7 Beach 24-26, 32-30, 25-17, 20-25, 15-8 to remain undefeated.
After Long Beach State won the first set, Beach coach Alan Knipe took exception to an increase in volume in the second set and discussions—at times heated—over the crowd noise led to several delays in a lengthy set that took just over an hour to complete.
UH outside hitter Rado Parapunov led the Warriors with a season-high 27 kills—six coming in the fifth set—on 53 attempts with 10 errors and contributed to seven blocks. He also served up two aces, the second coming early in the final set as UH opened up an early lead and pulled away.
UH (11-0, 6-0 Big West ) played without senior outside hitter Colton Cowell due to an ankle injury, and middle blocker Patrick Gasman put down a career-high 17 kills, hitting.481, and was in on eight of UH’s 14 blocks. UH libero Gage Worsley had a career-high 17 digs.
LBSU outside hitter Spencer Olivier put down a career-high 25 kills, Punahou graduate Ethan Siegfried added 19 kills and middle blocker Simon Andersen was in on 11 blocks. The Beach (3-3, 3-3) put down 17 blocks.
Early in the second set, the crowd noise swelled before a serve by Olivier, which went long to cut LBSU’s lead to 6-4. The noise drew the ire of Knipe, who had a heated exchange with Wade near midcourt. Several extended discussions among the officials ensued and eventually included UH athletic director David Matlin.
“The crowd noise has been going on throughout the pandemic, I heard it a bunch during basketball. They turned it up at one point and the Long Beach bench started complaining about the crowd noise and I just turned and said, ‘Deal with it, you’re on the road, it’s crowd noise, ‘” said Wade, who called Knipe’s ensuing outburst “unprofessional, unwarranted and uncalled for.”
“We were struggling a little bit. … It got a little gritty and definitely I think it got everybody’s emotions up a little bit, ” Wade continued. “The (UH administration ) vetted this out. … It was clearly within the rules.”
From that point, the noise was turned down on serves and up during and after points.
After closing a four-match homestand, the Warriors travel to face Cal State Northridge (1-5, 1-5 ) in a two-match series starting Friday at the Matadome in Northridge, Calif.
Tribune News Service contributed to this report