Hawai’i 2B Jake Tsukada slides into home safely during the ‘Bows 10-2 series-opening victory over Cal State Fullerton. Tsukada went 4-for-5 with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored in the win. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Monster 6th inning leads Hawai’i to series-opening blowout against Cal State Fullerton 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAY 23, 2024

HONOLULU – The ‘Bows bats and breezes. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (35-16, 18-10 Big West) continued their winning ways Thursday night – a continuation of nearly two months being one of the hottest teams in all of Division I baseball – as UH used a 7-run bottom of the 6th inning to cruise to a 10-2 victory over Cal State Fullerton (16-36, 7-21 Big West) to begin Senior Weekend for the ‘Bows. Hawai’i junior right-hander Alex Giroux earned his seventh win of the season, striking out four while allowing only three hits and no runs in 4.1 innings of relief after starter Harrison Bodendorf went 4.2 innings with a pair of earned runs. The sophomore left-hander fanned eight Titans batters before exiting, making for a total of 18 strikeouts over his past two appearances for Hawai’i. 

The ‘Bows bats got active early, pushing across a run in each of the first two innings as Kyson Donahue brought home Jake Tsukada from third with a one-out groundout in the bottom of the 1st and Naighel Ali’i Calderon smacked his first career home run off the right-field foul pole in the 2nd for Hawai’i. 

Cal State Fullerton, after being stumped by Bodendorf through the first time around the order, got the runs back with one big swing in the top of the 4th as Colby Wallace hit a 2-run shot to right with two outs to make it a new ball game. Bodendorf rebounded with a strikeout to end the inning, but the southpaw’s effectiveness began to waver into the 5th as he walked two of the first three batters in the top half of the frame before a loud out at the fence for the 2nd out of the inning sent Rich Hill to the rubber. 

Giroux came on to replace the left-handed starter, inducing a pop-up to escape the jam with the game still tied at two. Unfortunately for the ‘Bows, the bats had fallen silent as the Titans struck out the side in the bottom of the 5th. 

Cal State Fullerton found some more success in the top of the 6th, putting on a pair of baserunners against Giroux and the ‘Bows before the right-hander got Eli Lopez to fly out to center and Matthew Bardowell to ground out to short to end the inning. 

Hawai’i finally found the bats again the bottom of the frame, chasing Titans’ starter Mikiah Negrete with a pair of one-out knocks that put runners on the corners and brought on right-handed reliever Andrew Morones out of the CS Fullerton bullpen to try and escape the jam. 

Pinch-hitting for Calderon, Hawai’i freshman two-way player Itsuki Takemoto put UH back in front with an RBI single through the right side to score DallasJ Duarte and start an offensive avalanche for the ‘Bows. In all, the Rainbow Warriors would send 12 batters to the plate in the bottom of the 6th inning, breaking the game open with a 7-run outburst and taking a 9-2 lead into the 7th. 

Rejuvenated by the offensive success, Hawai’i quickly mowed through the top of the 7th batters for Fullerton, turning a clean double play to end the frame and come back to the plate. The ‘Bows loaded the bases after Takemoto grounded out to open the frame, bringing up Tsukada – who had registered a 4-for-4 night to that point. The ‘Bows 2nd baseman grounded to second but hustled down the line to force an error and help score the run from third, giving Hawai’i an added insurance run, 10-2. 

Giroux continued to groove, allowing just one baserunner over the final six outs as Hawai’i cruised to the 10-2 series-opening victory over the Titans. The win for the ‘Bows pushed the team to the 35-win mark, a threshold that the program had not hit since 2010 when Hawai’i went 35-28 and made the NCAA Regionals. 

The series against Cal State Fullerton continues with game two of three during Senior Weekend on Friday with the first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m. as Randy Abshier gets the nod for the ‘Bows.