HPU Drops Sunday Rubber Match as Hawai’i-Hilo Bats Explode for 23 Hits


WAIPAHU — When it rains, it pours, and when the Hawai’i-Hilo Vulcans offense got hot on Sunday, it stayed hot. 

The Hawai’i Pacific University baseball team dropped the final game of a 3-game series against cross-island rival Hilo on March 26, falling 13-8 to the Vulcans while giving up 23 hits in the process.

After splitting Saturday’s double header, the Sharks looked to build off the momentum of the previous evening’s 6-5 comeback victory that saw HPU hold the Vulcans offense scoreless for the final five innings of the game.

Hilo’s Ryan Cho started things off with a bang, literally.

The Vulcans first baseman kept a hot weekend at the plate going in the first inning, crushing a Ryan Schuelke offering way over the left field fence to score Mason Cook and give Hilo an early 2-0 lead. 


The Sharks looked to answer right back in the bottom half of the first, as the first three batters reached for HPU.

Hilo starter Eamon Velarde settled down though, getting Richard Higa to strike out swinging before Chase Taylor brought in Nicholas Jio with a sacrifice fly to right field. Velarde would then get Noah Hata to ground out to second to escape the jam with only one run of damage.

A two-out single by Hilo’s Cook got the run right back for the Vulcans in the top of the second as the catcher picked up his second single of the day. Cook, along with Cho, picked up five hits apiece in Sunday’s win.

Alec Yamauchi added another run to the Hilo lead with a home run to left field in the top of the third, and Cho laced a single up the middle in the fourth to bring Brayden Yoshida around to score and make it 5-1, Vulcans.

The Sharks cut it back to two, 5-3, following a Hilo error that allowed both Jio and center fielder D.J. Stephens to cross home in the bottom of the fourth. 

Just like the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, the Vulcans had an answer for every HPU comeback try.

Kein Iwata picked up his lone RBI of the day with a double in the fifth, then scored the very next batter as Yoshida singled to left. 

Once again, HPU tried to keep it close.

Taylor blasted a long home run to center field in the bottom half of the fifth after Higa led off the inning with a walk. The Sharks continued to threaten after Hata was hit by a pitch and swiped 2nd, but Travis Johnson tapped one back to the mound for the final out of the inning. 

The Vulcans got the runs right back once again, recording three straight hits to start the sixth inning and using a Chris Varljen sac fly to bring home Alec Yamauchi to make it 9-5 Hilo through five and a half innings of play.

A wacky bottom of the sixth saw the Sharks get four straight free passes and use a passed ball to make it 9-7 with runners on second and third and nobody out. 

Higa was caught too far from the bag on Chase Taylor’s lineout to right field, getting doubled up while TJ Smith tagged up to cut the Hilo lead to one. 

Once again, the Vulcans had an answer as Cook picked up another hit with an RBI single up the middle and Blake Tweedt helped him score with a single to right field, giving Hilo much needed breathing room. 

UH-H added two more insurance runs in the top of the ninth, as the 22nd ranked Vulcans looked to close out the visit to O’ahu with a series victory over the Sharks. 

Jake Liberta came in to lock things down for the visitors in the 7th and finished his 2.1 innings strong, striking out the side in the ninth to pick up his eighth save of the season. 

Nick Agacki was credited with the win for Hilo and Schuelke took the loss for Hawai’i Pacific.

The Vulcans (17-7) were led by Cook and Cho, each going 5-6 and combining for 5 RBI in the victory, as Hilo heads to the mainland for a 12-game trip.

Taylor knocked in half of HPU’s runs, registering 4 RBI in Sunday’s loss. The Sharks (10-15) will also head to the mainland for a long road trip of their own, spanning 14 games and five different opponents.