From Steffen Miner’s run-scoring single in the third to Sam Kim’s two-run double an inning later to Seamus Yoneshige’s workhorse effort on the mound, this victory was a long time coming for the University of Hawaii at Hilo baseball team.
The Vulcans produced in the clutch Wednesday to defeat frequent tormentor Dixie State 7-4 in Riverside, Calif.
“Finally,” coach Joey Estrella said. “It’s been happening all year: Guys can’t get clutch hits. We finally bunched some hits together, and we’re able to score some runs.”
Before their victory, the Vulcans (7-20, 6-19 Pacific West Conference) lost 5-1 in a contest that picked up in the seventh inning after a March 11 rain delay at Wong Stadium in Hilo.
Along with three hits apiece from Miner, Kim and Tyler Nitahara, Yoneshige (3-4) helped UH-Hilo rebound by keeping the Red Storm (17-6, 10-5) at bay into the seventh. The junior left-hander had been so smooth in retiring the first two batters in the top of the seventh that the coaching staff hardly noticed that his pitch total reached a robust 133.
“Honestly, we blew that one,” Estrella said. “The way he was in command, we had no idea he’d thrown that many.”
One out from victory, Yoneshige hit a batter and walked another before Jordan Hanley’s single cut UH-Hilo’s lead to 7-2. Richie Mariano came on in relief and allowed Kevin Kline’s two-run triple, but he induced a flyout to close the door.
Yoneshige won for the first time in five decisions, allowing four runs on eight hits. He struck out seven and walked two.
Estrella said a “jet stream” in the outfield made for hitters’ conditions, turning singles into doubles. UH-Hilo took advantage by scoring all its runs in the middle innings.
Keenan Nishioka and Kim started UH-Hilo’s three-run rally in the third with two-out singles. Nishioka scored to tie the game at 1-1 when Brad Fairweather reached on catcher’s interference and Miner and Cleary followed with RBI singles.
Cleary finished with three RBIs, including a two-run double in the fourth that punctuated a four-run uprising. Cleary and Nitahara opened the fourth with singles and scored on Kim’s double.
Austin Cusack finished 1-for-3 with a walk as part of the Vulcans 14-hit attack and scored two runs.
“This is busy time for us,” said Estrella, whose team team will stay in Riverside and open a four-game series with second-place California Baptist in a Friday doubleheader. “It was huge. To get the victory feels great.”
Dixie State committed four errors. Starter Bryce Anderson (1-3) was touched for 11 hits and seven runs — two earned — in four innings. He walked one and struck out three.
Hanley was 3-for-4, and Kline was 2-for-3.
The first game resumed in the seventh with Dixie State ahead 3-1, and Josh Mooney worked three scoreless innings and allowed only a hit to Cleary and a walk to get the save. Austin Christiansen, who had allowed only an unearned run in six innings when the rain started falling March 11 at Wong Stadium, improved to 4-0.
Jeremy Dela Cruz fell to 0-5 for UH-Hilo, while shortstop John Abreu was retired in both his at-bats and finished 3-for-5.
Dixie State 000 010 211 — 5 12 1
UH-Hilo 100 000 000 —1 8 3
Dixie State 100 000 3 — 4 9 4
UH-Hilo 003 400 x — 7 14 0