Hawai’i Pacific sees season end in 6-4 loss to Point Loma in PacWest baseball tournament

Hawai’i Pacific sees season end in 6-4 loss to Point Loma in PacWest baseball tournament

Hawai’i Pacific sees season end in 6-4 loss to Point Loma in PacWest baseball tournament

BY MICHAEL LASQUERO | HSRN
PUBLISHED MAY 9, 2024

AZUSA, Calif. — Tough way to go out.

Hawai’i Pacific gave up five unanswered runs in a do-or-die game as Point Loma eliminated the Sharks, 6-4, in the PacWest baseball Championships Thursday afternoon at Cougar Baseball Complex.

The Sharks (30-22) took the lead in the top of the third on Skylar Agnew’s three-run homer and led by three after Cooper Donlin’s RBI single in the fourth before their bats started to cool down.

They had a stretch through the fifth and eighth when 11 straight batters were retired in order, which allowed the Sea Lions (37-10-1) an opportunity to tie it after seven innings.

Point Loma, who was seeded first in the tourney, then plated two runs in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead for good to complete the comeback.

HPU had runners on the base paths in seven of the nine innings, but could only cash in on two of those frames against the Sea Lions’ pitching staff.

Starter Austyn Coleman went seven innings and settled down after the fourth to keep Point Loma in reach. Kaden Lewis came in for one out to start the eighth before Christian Williams (4-1) pitched the next two innings to earn the win. Sashin James then faced just four batters in the ninth to earn his 16th save of the year.

Esai Santos was the one Sea Lion that was a thorn in HPU’s side as he started the day 4-for-4 and accounted for half of Point Loma’s hits. His solo home run to right center put the Sea Lions on the board in the bottom of the first and he later scored on a wild pitch in the fourth for the second Point Loma run of the game. Santos’ RBI double to left field also tied the game in the seventh.

Outside of the home run given up to Santos in the two-hole, HPU starter Jack O’Brien was solid in his time on the mound going through the Point Loma batting order just once before giving way to Scott Armstrong in what appeared to be a scheduled pitching change.

Armstrong struggled however as his day was over in just 2/3 innings pitched. After getting the final out of the third inning, he gave up back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the fourth and then walked a batter to load the bases with no outs. Santos then scored on a wild pitch before a sacrifice fly made it a one-run game.

Notable closer Ryan Inouye, the all-time single season saves leader for HPU with 13 on the season, came in to finish the inning as he pitched 2 and 2/3 innings of scoreless ball to take HPU through the sixth.

Mac Leisher (7-5), the season leader in innings pitched, entered in the seventh and was charged with the loss after giving up three runs in the final two innings.

Kota Suzuki led the Sharks at the plate with three of the team’s 10 hits.

HPU was making its first postseason appearance since 2010.

HPU Baseball drops first game in PacWest tournament to Concordia, 5-0

HPU Baseball drops first game in PacWest tournament to Concordia, 5-0

HPU Baseball drops first game in PacWest tournament to Concordia, 5-0

BY MICHAEL LASQUERO | HSRN
PUBLISHED MAY 8, 2024

AZUSA, Calif. — Not much you can do against arguably the best pitcher in the conference.

Hawai’i Pacific was held scoreless in its opening game of the PacWest Baseball Championships as Concordia cruised to a 5-0 win Wednesday afternoon at Cougar Baseball Complex.

Jake Covey, who earned conference Co-Pitcher of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honors, went the full nine innings for the Golden Eagles with eight strikeouts while allowing just four hits.

The Sharks were held without a hit until the bottom of the fifth with a Chase Taylor single.

Concordia held a slim 1-0 lead after a David Baruch RBI in the the top of the third, but broke the game wide-open in the top of the sixth with four consecutive hits on HPU starter Conor Hourigan. The fourth hit in that stretch was a three-run homer that accounted for the final score.

HPU will play Point Loma in a must-win game to extend its season Thursday morning at 8 a.m. (HST). The loser’s season is over while the winner will play the loser between Azusa Pacific and Concordia at 4 p.m. (HST).

The Sea Lions swept the Sharks in the regular season.

HPU Baseball on the cusp of first postseason appearance since 2010 with series win over Concordia

HPU Baseball on the cusp of first postseason appearance since 2010 with series win over Concordia

HPU Baseball on the cusp of first postseason appearance since 2010 with series win over Concordia

BY MICHAEL LASQUERO | HSRN
PUBLISHED APRIL 16, 2024

The tide is starting to turn for the Hawai’i Pacific baseball team.

The Sharks picked up a key series victory over Concordia University Irvine over the weekend to even their PacWest conference record at 14-14 with just four games left in league play before the postseason.

HPU dropped the first game against the Eagles, 4-3, before rattling off three decisive victories in a row to help move the Sharks into fourth place in the conference — a critical spot to be in as the top four teams will play in the PacWest postseason tournament, which uses a double-elimination format with no byes. 

The Sharks are trying for their first postseason appearance since 2010 and will have control of their own destiny with a road trip at Hawai’i Hilo this weekend and a crosstown matchup against Chaminade the following week.

“It was definitely a good weekend,” said HPU third-year coach Dane Fujinaka. “We needed to win that series, definitely a big series and I think it was really good to see different parts of our team click and be able to ride that momentum because historically we haven’t played good on the road. It seems like we’re getting the hang of it and starting to get some success on the road. Obviously going to Hilo we need to continue that and continue to play good baseball.”

The first win for HPU in the series came courtesy of the bat of sophomore outfielder Noah Hata, who hit a go-ahead grand slam in the top of the eighth in an 8-4 victory.

“Noah had a really good at bat and got a hold of one. That was the game right there. We definitely needed that,” said Fujinaka. “That was the turning point of our season, that hit because we were struggling to put together some runs.”

Hata’s game-winning blast also came after Concordia intentionally walked Skylar Agnew to get to him.

“I can’t believe they did that because statistically, Noah is as good as Agnew,” said Fujinaka. “It was a good matchup for him. He had a really good at bat, super clutch.”

For his efforts, Hata was named the PacWest Player of the Week.

“He’s the hardest worker on the field, plays hard all the time and just wants it,” Fujinaka said. “He’s a guy that everybody trusts because of the preparation that he does. He’s a great kid, a great teammate. Everybody loves him. I think everybody was super stoked when he pulled through there. He’s a guy that everybody wanted to see pull through and he deserved it.”

Game three was a dominant win in which HPU scored 14 runs on 20 hits in a 14-7 victory. The Sharks also got it done against Concordia’s Riley O’Sullivan, who was tabbed as the PacWest Preseason Pitcher of the Year. HPU got eight hits on Sullivan and chased him after 5 and 2/3 innings of work and scored 13 total runs in the final five innings of play.

“We knew he was their guy and we got to be ready to go,” said Fujinaka. “We actually hit him around pretty good, just couldn’t get that two-out knock. I just knew as long as we were good on the mound, we were going to get at him at some point so we did. Then finally we got a couple of big hits and then from there it took off. We built the momentum then we put them away. That was huge.”

Key contributors at the plate in the game three victory include Kota Suzuki, who batted 4-for-4 with three runs scored, TJ Smith with a team-high four RBIs and designated hitter Cooper Donlin with four hits in extended playing time.

While the bats came alive in game three, game No. 4 was the Shea Lake show.

The sophomore pitcher pitched a complete game in a 9-0 shutout performance to close out the series. Lake (4-2) tallied eight strikeouts in the win and was also selected as the PacWest Pitcher of the Week for his efforts. 

Officially Lake’s performance went down as a three-hitter, but Fujinaka thought those hits should have gone in the books as errors.

“That’s the best pitching performance we had all year, it should have been a no-hitter,” said Fujinaka. “It was three infield hits that they gave that were clear errors. That’s how the show goes when you’re the away team.”

The Sharks also backed Lake’s gem up with runs scored in five of seven innings played.

“We were kind of able to use our entire offense to score,” Fujinaka said. “Not just hitting, we ran, we bunted, we hit-and-run, all that type of stuff I think really attributed to the total runs scored.”

The three consecutive victories also came with two-time All-PacWest selection Nicholas Jio back in his usual leadoff spot. HPU was using power hitter Chase Taylor in the leadoff spot for a number of games previously before making the switch before game two.

Fujinaka said Jio has probably been the Sharks’ “hottest hitter the past couple of weeks.

“He’s back to his old self and in this past weekend, he’s back to the old All-Conference Jio.”

While in-state foes UH-Hilo (10-20) and Chaminade (8-20) are at the bottom of the conference standings, Fujinaka is not looking past the Sharks’ upcoming opponents.

“Chaminade is competitive, I don’t care what anybody says, they know how to play the game,” said Fujinaka. “(Coach) Chad (Konishi) is a really good coach. They’re coached well and they know how to play their game. It’s college baseball. You don’t show up and play your game, you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, you’re going to lose. By no means are they auto wins cause they’re not.

“Going to Hilo is a whole different ball game. That’s a tough place to win. I think I got one win there in three years. We’re certainly not out of the woods yet, we got to take care of business.”

Because conference leader Westmont (20-3-1) is not eligible for postseason play in its first year of NCAA membership, HPU just needs to finish among the top five teams in terms of winning percentage to reach the postseason. Point Loma has essentially clinched its spot with a 18-5-1 conference record, so the Sharks are trying to fend off the likes of Azusa Pacific (13-10), Concordia (11-13) and Fresno Pacific (10-14) for their spot.

“I’m excited,” said Fujinaka. “The guys are excited for the last few weeks of the season. The biggest thing for them that I’m going to tell them is to take care of one game at a time and build off of it. I don’t think we can look too far ahead about it right now. We just have to take care of what’s in front of us.”

Sharks softball secures first PacWest series victory of the season

Sharks softball secures first PacWest series victory of the season

Sharks softball secures first PacWest series victory of the season

BY MICHAEL LASQUERO | HSRN
PUBLISHED APRIL 4, 2024

KANEOHE — Thing are starting to turn around for the Hawai’i Pacific softball team.

After recording back-to-back wins over Academy of Art on a Tuesday double-header, the Sharks secured their first PacWest series victory of the year when they defeated the Urban Knights by a score of 8-2 in the first game at Howard A. Okita Field Wednesday afternoon.

The six-run win was the largest margin of victory of the season by HPU (7-17 overall, 3-9 conference).

The Sharks broke open the game with a five-run rally in the bottom of the third that was highlighted by Tiari Hernandez’s first home run of the year. Her blast to left field went 200 yards and bounced off the top of the fence to give HPU a commanding 7-2 lead.

Pitcher Gianna Kerschbaum (2-5) picked up the complete game victory while throwing three strikeouts and scattering four hits across seven innings.

The Urban Knights (8-28, 4-18) snapped a 22-game losing streak in game two with a 5-3 win over the Sharks, but the home team gave the visitors everything they could handle in an extra-inning game that went nine frames.

HPU faced a two-run deficit for majority of the game until the sixth inning when Kerschbaum drove in Hoku Ching and Jewel Larson to tie the game at 3.

The Sharks will now go on the road in a 14-game road trip with stops in California and Hilo before wrapping regular season play against Chaminade on April 27 in the program’s final games in Kaneohe.

GAME ONE

GAME TWO

Hawai’i baseball a step ahead of HPU in 10-1 non-conference bounce back victory

Hawai’i baseball a step ahead of HPU in 10-1 non-conference bounce back victory

Hawai’i baseball a step ahead of HPU in 10-1 non-conference bounce back victory

BY MICHAEL LASQUERO | HSRN
PUBLISHED APRIL 2, 2024

HONOLULU — One team got back in the win column.

The other gained an invaluable experience that should pay dividends in the long run.

The University of Hawai’i baseball team bested visiting Hawai’i Pacific, 10-1, in a non-conference matchup at Les Murakami Stadium on a windy and wet Tuesday night.

The Rainbow Warriors got a much-needed win after getting swept by UC-Irvine last weekend to improve to 16-10 before a seven-game road trip over the next two weeks.

“We never lost confidence in our guys, we just knew that our time was coming,” said Jake Tsukada, who hit a solo home run to give the ‘Bows a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth.

Hawai’i tallied 15 total hits in the win and used nine different pitchers to fuel its victory. Leadoff hitter Jordan Donahue and Tsukada had three hits apiece in the victory. Tsukada was also solid all-around as the designated hitter with three RBIs and three runs scored.

The Sharks (19-16) — who plays collegiately on the Division II level — had their opportunities to limit the ‘Bows, but Hawai’i was a step ahead on the base paths.

Donahue led off the bottom of the first inning with a single after beating the throw to first by HPU starting pitcher Jordan Otjen. After Tsukada’s first hit of the night, Matthew Miura loaded the bases on a bunt single after getting confirmation that he beat the throw by the replay officials. This led to a 2-0 Hawai’i lead after the first inning.

Later in the sixth inning the Sharks tried to get a runner out at home after Tsukada grounded into a fielder’s choice at second base, but Elijah Ickes was able to beat the throw to make it a 6-1 game. Hawai’i scored another run in the inning after HPU could not turn the double play in time to negate the score.

“Speed kills. It comes to the ballpark everyday,” said Hawai’i coach Rich Hill.

The Hawai’i pitching staff also combined for eight strikeouts as the ‘Bows stranded 12 HPU runners on the base paths.

“I thought we came ready to go. Couple of hits in the first inning didn’t go our way, just bang bang plays that ultimately their speed kinda took over there,” said HPU coach Dane Fujinaka.

“Our pitchers did a good job of keeping us in the game. Offensively we left a lot of guys on base but had really good at bats with two outs early in the game, just couldn’t get those hits to fall. I think those hits fall, it’s a little bit different ball game in the middle of that game there, but I’m proud of our guys. I thought we competed well today.”

The Sharks’ lone run came on a squeeze bunt by Noah Hata to score Skylar Agnew in the top of the fourth to make the score 4-1. Agnew reached in the inning with a double, the only HPU hit of the game that went for extra bases.

Even though his squad took the loss, Fujinaka knows that playing an opponent on a higher tier will help his team get better.

“They forced us to make quality pitches with two strikes, faced us to make quality pitches with guys on base. Ultimately, that’s the difference. They were able to capitalize on those moments,” said Fujinaka.

“We obviously need to be better at that and I truly think that we got better all around as a baseball club tonight. You’re going to do that playing good teams like the University of Hawai’i. They’re solid all around defensively, pitching, offensively. They’re going to make you earn everything. I love the way we competed tonight and I think we definitely got better.”

It was the first of three games against the Division II squads in the state for the ‘Bows. They will take on Chaminade on April 16 and Hawai’i-Hilo on April 30. Hill said the game against the Sharks was also beneficial for his squad before its road series against conference foe UC-Davis.

“These teams are very scary. They’ve got some athleticism,” said Hill. “I really like their lineup, one through nine. You never know about the pitching mid week, who’s doing what, who they’re saving, etc., but it’s a very well-coached team. This is super beneficiary for us to play a quality team before an important Big West series.”

Harrison Bodendorf, one of six left-handed pitchers that saw mound time for Hawai’i, was credited for his first win of the season. Otjen (2-3) took the loss for the Sharks.

Cory Ronan was the most effective pitcher for the ‘Bows with a scintillating second inning when he retired the side with just eight pitches.

“I like what Cory Ronen did,” said Hill. “He’s really been biding his time and working extremely hard.”

Hawai’i also needed to reshuffle the lineup a bit with designated hitter Austin Machado out with an illness. This saw Tsukada take the DH role while the rest of the order moved up a notch with Machado out. Ben Ziegler-Namoa was the cleanup hitter against HPU and drove in the first run of the game.

Kyson Donahue was also solid with two hits and an RBI in the heart of the order while Jake Quandt made the most of his opportunities starting in right field with a triple and a double in his first two at bats.

“I like Ben in that four-hole incase he leads off. He’s gotten so many walks, his on base percentage is so good, you know he’s going to put his bat on the ball,” said Hill.

“Kyson has really started to emerge as well so you want him in that RBI situation. Quandt was an emergency guy. We called that hit-and-run early in the game. I just wanted him to swing the bat. When he’s aggressive he’s much better.”

Mac Leisher logged the most innings pitched for the Sharks with three.

Chase Taylor and Kota Suzuki each had two hits to lead HPU in the loss.

The Sharks will return back to the Les Murakami on Sunday against UH-Hilo for a PacWest double-header. The first matchup is slated for 3:00 p.m.

“Honestly this was huge, being able to play here and get used to the park before conference play starts up again on Sunday against Hilo,” said Fujinaka.

“As you can see, the wind was crazy today. That was wild. I don’t remember the wind ever being like that, but it’s huge for our guys to be able to get comfortable at this park, playing on turf with this wind, it was huge. I think our guys got a little bit more comfortable today. Excited to get back after it on Sunday.”