The pattern is not lost on Joey Estrella.
For the third straight series opener, the University of Hawaii at Hilo baseball team started off with a loss.
But each time, the Vulcans have come back strong.
Gavin Kinoshita hung tough for five innings on the mound Monday, Will Thayer drove in four runs, and the Vulcans held on for a 5-4 victory and a split of their doubleheader with Fresno Pacific in Fresno Calif.
UH-Hilo (3-7, 2-4 Pacific West Conference) rebounded after a 13-0 loss in the opener.
“It’s really interesting what’s happening,” said Estrella, whose team previously lost series openers against Augustana and Point Loma, only to pick up wins in the nightcaps both times.
“We challenged the guys at the end of the first game. We knew we were better than that. The guys responded, but we sure made things interesting.”
Thayer had an RBI double in the second inning and a two-run double in the fourth. Keenan Nishioka was 2-for-4 with two runs scored, and Tyler Nitahara was 2-for-3.
Richie Mariano gave up an unearned run but got out of a jam in the ninth for his second save. With the bases loaded and one out, Mariano induced Bobby Mendoza to hit a dribbler in front of the plate. Nitahara calmly corralled the ball, stepped on home, then threw to first to end the game.
Kinoshita (1-0) pitched five innings, allowing five hits, three runs — two earned — with no walks and three strikeouts. Sheldon Shishido got two strikeouts in a scoreless inning of relief.
Estrella called the first game “unacceptable.”
Fresno Pacific (6-3, 1-1) collected 16 hits, and losing pitcher Patrick Fletcher and reliever Jordan Kurokawa were hit hard.
Steven Moon had three hits for the Sunbirds, and Brett Bishop and Kenny Overly each drove in three runs.
Nishioka and Sam Kim had two hits each for UH-Hilo, which has another doubleheader against Fresno Pacific at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
in 10th place
The University of Hawaii at Hilo women’s golf team shot 331 and opened up in 10th place Monday at the Lady Rattler Roundup in San Antonio, Texas.
Erika Morihiro’s 8-over 80 paced the Vulcans.
Tarleton State’s Isabell Jimenez-Perea led the tournament after a 69, and her team was in front at 3-over 291.