WAIPAHU — A beautiful start to the weekend saw a pair of exciting rivalry games go down to the wire on Saturday. Hawai’i Pacific University (10-14) split the March 25 doubleheader against cross-island rival Hawai’i Hilo (16-7), falling in the first game of the day, 14-12, before avenging the loss in game two and finishing a five-run rally to beat the Vulcans, 6-5 in 7 innings.
Game One: Sharks Comeback Comes Up Short The nationally-ranked Vulcans, who took a fall in the Week 6 national rankings from a top-15 spot down to 22nd, jumped on HPU starter Jack O’Brien with two outs in the first inning. A Ryan Cho double to left followed by an Alec Yamauchi RBI single gave Hilo an early 1-0 lead. HPU would answer back an inning later, as Frankie Peralez went the other way with runners on the corners and two out to tie the game at one. Hilo’s bats erupted in the middle innings, starting with a Casey Yamauchi grand slam with none out in the top of the fourth. A Blake Tweedt home run capped a 7-run top of the fourth inning for the Vulcans. The hits kept rolling in the fifth inning, as the visitors poured on four more runs to open up a 12-1 lead at the game’s midway point.
The Sharks would fight back, scratching one more run off Hilo starter Christian DeJesus in the fifth to cut it to 12-2. The Vulcans went to the bullpen to start the sixth, and the HPU hitters capitalized on the pitching change in a big way. Hawai’i Pacific needed an inning to adjust to new Vulcans pitcher James Yamasaki, but used a six-run seventh inning powered by a Nicholas Jim 2-run home run to cut Hawai’i Hilo’s lead,12-8.
The visitors answered back in the top half of the next inning, putting up a pair of insurance runs to push the lead back up to six runs, 14-8. HPU would not go quietly though, as the first pair of Sharks batters reached and then Richard Higa took Orlando Leon Jr. deep for a 3-run home run to slice it to 14-11 in the bottom of the ninth with nobody out. A TJ Smith double into the gap brought the tying run to the plate for the Sharks with two outs to work with, but the miraculous comeback was not in the cards for the home team as Christian Wood retired the last two HPU batters to record the save for the Vulcans and take game one.
Jack O’Brien was charged with the loss for the Sharks, dropping his record to 2-4 on the season. The righty finished the day with 3.1 IP, giving up eight earned runs on 10 hits, walking one and recording one strikeout. The Sharks used eight different hurlers in the first of the two games, while Hilo used five throwers. Christian DeJesus earned the win for the Vulcans, going five innings strong and giving up two runs on seven hits, walking two Sharks and recording one strikeout. It was DeJesus’s third win of the season and Christian Wood’s first save of the year for the Vulcans. Game Two: Sharks Complete Comeback to Stun Vulcans
Despite the break between games, Hilo’s bats stayed hot. Just like the first game of the day, the visitors jumped on HPU’s starter. This time, it was left-handler Andrew Hauck giving up a pair of opening frame runs before the Sharks even came to bat. The Vulcans kept the good times rolling in the second inning, piling on three more runs to take a 5-0 lead just nine total outs into the game.
Just as in the day’s first game though, Hawai’i Pacific would not go down without a fight and this time buckled down defensively as well. DJ Stephens helped get the Sharks on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second, dropping a single into right field to score Richard Higa and cut the deficit to four runs. HPU continued to chip away in the fourth, pushing three more runs across the plate with back-to-back singles from Jio and Kota Suzuki with the bases loaded. In a 7-inning second game of a double header, it was important for the Sharks to get closer quickly.
After a shaky first two innings from Hauck, the southpaw settled in to throw three straight scoreless innings and keep the Sharks in the game while the offense worked. Hauck ended his day with 5.0 IP, allowing five runs against him in the first two frames and giving up seven hits. The lefty also walked a pair of batters to go along with seven punchouts. While he left without a chance to record a win for his own record, he had helped the Sharks stay in position to steal a win for theirs from the Vulcans.
Right-hander Mac Leisher gave up a hit in his one inning of work, the sixth, but held Hilo off the board once again. HPU completed the comeback in the bottom half of the frame, using a one-out Noah Hata pinch-hit single to score Stephens from second base and tie the game at five apiece. Hata took second following a Ty Honda wild pitch, then advanced to third on a sacrifice fly down the left field line by Jio. Leon Jr. was brought in to try and escape the jam for the Vulcans, but Suzuki laced a single right back at Leon Jr., hitting off the righty’s glove and into no-man’s land to score Hata and give the Sharks their first lead of the night.
HPU’s stud closer Ryan Inouye entered in the top of the seventh, looking to finish off the cross-island rival and earn a split. The hard thrower struck out the first two Vulcan batters, hitting over 90 miles per hour a few times on his fastball. He induced an Alec Yamauchi pop-up to right for the final out of the night. Inouye earned the win for his performance, striking out two in his one inning of work in the Sharks’ 6-5 win.
The two squads go at it again on Sunday, March 26 at CORP 4 Field in Waipahu, with the first pitch slated to be around noon HST.