Senior third baseman Ethan Lopez had a big day, as his four RBIs helped lead Hawaiʻi (11-14, 1-0 Big West Conference) to a 10-2 win over No. 19 UC Irvine on Friday night at the Les Murakami Stadium.
Freshman pitcher Aaron Davenport got the start on the mound and pitched a great game. In five innings pitched, he gave up just one run on four hits with four strikeouts
“My shoulder is feeling good. My arm feels really healthy,” Davenport said. “I knew going in that they were going to be a good hitting team. It just came down to locating pitches and not throwing around guys. Just challenging hitters.”
Davenport’s effort was rewarded by a fruitful offensive performance.
“That’s huge,” Davenport said. “It’s a different mindset pitching when you’re down one versus up by four. It changes your approach.”
The ‘Bows offense got on the scoreboard early in the game. After a 1-2-3 first inning, the Rainbow Warriors knocked in two runs on three hits in the second inning. Junior designated hitter Brennen Hancock got the ball rolling, hitting a single to the pitcher for Hawaiʻi’s first hit of the game.
Senior shortstop Maaki Yamazaki was walked on a full count, and later advanced to second base on an error by Anteaters pitcher Andre Pallante.
Junior catcher Tyler Murray then doubled to right field, sending Hancock and Yamazaki home to break Pallante’s 27-inning scoreless streak and giving the ‘Bows an early 2-0 lead.
“We knew coming into the game about (Pallante’s) streak,” Murray said. “We knew we wanted to get him out of the game quick and get some runs up so we can break (the streak), so that’s big.”
Hawaiʻi continued its hot offensive hand in the third inning. Sophomore left fielder Daylen Calicdan was walked to start the inning, before advancing to third on sophomore Alex Baeza’s single to right field.
With two runners on base, Lopez stepped up to the plate. He promptly singled to right field, sending Calicdan home for Lopez’s first RBI of the night. Freshman second baseman Dallas Duarte’s sac fly sent Baeza home as UH took a 4-0 lead through the first three innings.
With (Pallante) you’re talking about a first rounder,” head coach Mike Trapasso said. “I think just from a confidence standpoint, (our early offensive performance) really helped our guys.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rainbow Warriors did not give up a run until the fourth inning, when Anteaters third baseman Brandon Lewis scored on a wild pitch.
In a wild sixth inning, UC Irvine walked the first four ‘Bows batters they faced. With the bases loaded, freshman center fielder Scotty Scott was walked on a full count, sending Duarte home for UH’s fifth run of the night.
A Calicdan sac fly sent another runner home. Baeza was then intentionally walked to load up the bases. The decision backfired for the Anteaters, as Lopez sent a bases-clearing triple deep to left center field.
Freshman right fielder Tyler Best, Scott and Baeza all scored, giving Lopez four RBIs on the night. Hancock rounded out the inning with a sac groundout to send Lopez home, giving Hawaiʻi a 10-1 lead. In the wacky inning, the Rainbow Warriors scored six runs on just one hit.
“We set the tone offensively,” Lopez said. “It was pretty impressive to watch the team picked up where we left off from Sunday’s game in Ohio. I just try to play my part."
UC Irvine scored a seventh inning run on a passed ball, but a comeback was not in the cards, as graduate pitcher Colin Ashworth and senior pitcher Scott Bellina held the Anteaters to just three hits in the final three innings.
The ‘Bows return to Les Murakami Stadium on Saturday at 6:35 p.m. for game two of the series against UC Irvine.