Senior Kyle Watase had three hits and junior right-hander Jeremy De La Cruz turned in a strong effort on the mound to lead the University of Hawaii at Hilo to a 7-2 win over Fresno Pacific University on Thursday in Fresno, Calif.
It was the Pacific West Conference baseball season opener for the visiting Vulcans (2-3 overall, 1-0 PacWest). The host Sunbirds fell to 6-8 and 1-4, respectively.
Watase, an infielder out of St. Louis High School on Oahu, batted 3 for 4, including a homer, and drove in three runs as UH-Hilo pounded out 13 hits against FPU ace J.D. Salles (2-2). Watase’s two-run homer in the fifth inning tied the contest at 2-all before sophomore Keenan Nishioka followed with an RBI double that gave the Vulcans the lead for good. The visitors then added solo runs in the sixth and seventh innings as well as two runs in the ninth to clinch the victory.
De La Cruz (1-1) pitched seven innings for UH-Hilo. The junior right-hander out of Damien High in Honolulu gave up two runs in the second inning and then went on to pick up the win. Salles took the loss, in his roughest start of the young season.
“Jeremy gave up those two runs in the first inning and then just settled down,” UH-Hilo first-year head coach Kallen Miyataki said. “He did a great job for us and kept us in the game.
“Then in the fifth inning, Kyle turned on a pitch and hit it off the flag pole in right field to tie the game. Keenen came through with his clutch double to give us the lead, and that’s all Jeremy needed.”
Senior outfielder Zachary Hamasaki also had three hits and an RBI for the Vulcans. Nishioka had two hits, including the big double, while senior Will Thayer had a hit and an RBI.
“The whole team contributed today,” Miyataki said. “Hats off to Jeremy for keeping us in the game. But our kids just continued to play hard and not try to beat themselves. We’re all staying positive and understand this is a learning situation (this year).”
Michael Hostetler and Baron Bower each had three hits to lead the Sunbirds. Teammate Joshua Banuelos added two hits with an RBI.
Miyataki said the Vulcans struggled in their season-opening nonconference series last week at Northwest Nazarene.
“Maybe we had the jitters and were a little apprehensive,” Miyataki said. “The ball flies up there but we just didn’t hit the ball very well. But today, wow, our kids did a great job and were aggressive against their ace. It’s a really good win to start off the PacWest.”
The teams will take today off with rain expected. But they’ll play a doubleheader at noon Saturday and a single game on Sunday to close out the four-game series.
The Vulcans return home to host Point Loma Nazarene, of San Diego, Calif., in doubleheaders March 10-11, followed by a four-game series against Cal Baptist on March 14-15.
At Fresno, Calif.
UH-Hilo 000 031 102 — 7 13 0
FPU 200 000 000 — 2 10 2