Hawaii Pacific senior closer Grant Dragmire collected his second and third saves of the season against UH-Hilo and kept his team’s season alive for the time being.
The Sharks took a PacWest Hawaii pod doubleheader, winning Game 1, 6-3, and Game 2, 4-3, on Sunday at the Vulcans’ campus stadium.
The Vulcans (11-7, 11-4 PacWest) need to win just two more games to clinch the PacWest Hawaii pod automatic qualifier to the three-team conference tournament.
The Sharks (4-15, 4-11) have a five-game series left against UHH, starting with a doubleheader at 11 a.m. Friday at Les Murakami Stadium in Honolulu.
“I’m proud of the ways the guys came back,” HPU coach Dallas Correa said. “They’ve been battling all year. We’ve been injured all year. We’re finally starting to get healthy, and I enjoyed the fight. We’re starting to figure things out.
“We have a young group coming in, and they need to figure out how to play the game the right way. Grant’s a bulldog and a captain on our team. He’s somebody I needed in those big-time situations, and he’s starting to perform and command all his pitches, and that’s what we need.”
UHH should have its top two arms Kyle Alcorn (2-2, 2.61 ERA) and Cameron Scudder (0-1, 2.61 ERA), who both didn’t pitch this weekend because of injuries, back by then.
The Sharks need to win four of five games to steal the AQ from the Vulcans. Correa’s message to his Sharks is a simple one.
“We just have to do things the right way. That’s it,” he said. “We have to play baseball the right way, and I saw that today.”
All the drama was saved for Game 2, where freshman right-hander Christian DeJesus was pulled for closer John Kea with HPU runners on first and second and one out, and the Vulcans ahead 1-0.
The Sharks shortened their swings, just tried to make contact and the basehits, nothing hit hard, kept falling into place. Kyle Layugan hit a flyball to right field that just landed out of the reach from Chris Aubort. Layugan hustled into second for an RBI double and the score tied 1-1.
Kea struck out cleanup hitter Noah Blythe, but Richard Higa poked a seeing-eye single past third base for an RBI and 2-1 lead. It was the same thing for Braxton Wherie, another left-handed batter, he went with the pitch for another run-scoring single to increase the lead to 3-1.
In the seventh, the Sharks added another run with UHH’s help. Haydon Huff singled and Cole dropped a bunt, but catcher Teppei Fukuda’s throw went into right field, and Huff scored an unearned run for a 4-1 lead.
“We should have taken care of business early, which we did not,” UHH coach Kallen Miyataki said. “All in all, I’m still pleased with how we performed. We need these types of games if we are going to excel if we go further, and this is going to help us get better. A lot of people got to play in different positions, and we got to see a lot about ourselves.
“Are we ready? Apparently, there are things we need to take care of during the week. But we’ll stay positive and be fine. Hopefully, we’ll get healthy and be OK. So the two weeks off will really be a blessing for us.”
Then it was UHH’s turn to stir up a bit of excitement in their last at-bat in the bottom of the seventh. Rustin Ho reached on a fielder’s choice off reliever Gavin Pringle, and Trey Yukumoto singled. Yukumoto was a nightmare for the Sharks; he batted 4 for 6 on Sunday.
Dragmire, who pitched two scoreless inning in Game 1 for a save, replaced Pringle and struck out Aubort. He quickly got Mason Campbell in a 1-2 hole, but Mason stroked a two-run single to cut HPU’s lead to 4-3.
Miguel Valadez, a junior transfer from Simpson University in California, was making his third plate appearance of the season. Miyataki looked down UHH’s bench but decided to give Valadez an opportunity.
He made solid contact, but the ball turned into a routine grounder for third baseman Joe Gallagher, who threw to first base for the final out.
DeJesus, making his second start, got stuck with a tough loss. In 5 1/3 innings, he allowed two runs on four hits and no walks and struck out four. Kea gave up two runs in 1 2/3 innings, allowed four hits but whiffed three.
Aubort, Yukumoto, and Bradyn Yoshida each had two hits while Campbell had two RBIs for the Vulcans, who had nine hits and stranded seven on base.
Maxime Beaulieu started and pitched 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball for a no-decision. Pringle allowed two runs in two innings for the win, and Dragmire got two outs for his third save.
In the Game 1 loss, it got ugly early. HPU led 5-1 after four innings, helped by UHH’s four errors, which led to two unearned runs for starter Jacob Liberta, who pitched two innings. The Sharks jumped on UHH’s bullpen for a 6-3 win.
In an encouraging sign, Jonathan Buhl (one inning), Jamieson Hirayama (1 1/3 innings), Takashi Umino (two innings), and Brandyn Lee-Lehando (two innings) all provided scoreless relief. Jarod Kaneshiro (two outs, two runs) and Cody Hirata (no outs, two batters, one run) each had a tough day.
Yamauchi went 4 for 5 with two RBIs, Aubort went 2 for 5, and Yukumoto was 2 for 3 for the Vuls, who had 10 hits and left eight on base.
Cole Mayeshiro changed speed and pitched five innings of two-run ball for the win. Edward Lee allowed a run in two innings, and Dragmire fired two innings of shutout ball for the save.