MINNEAPOLIS – The University of Hawai’i (4-5) baseball team found itself in a dogfight with Iowa (5-3) on the opening day of play at the 30th Dairy Queen Classic on, Friday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium. In a back-and-forth struggle, the Rainbow Warriors battled back from a four-run deficit, but a ninth-inning Rainbow Warriors rally came up short in the 7-6 loss.
Coming off a huge one-off victory over the tournament’s host on Thursday, UH carried over the momentum early against the Hawkeyes, using consecutive first-inning singles to bring Dylan Vchulek home on a squeeze play, courtesy of a well-placed sac bunt by third baseman Josh Rojas for the early lead.
After two quick outs in the bottom frame, smooth sailing seemed a possibility for starter Brendan Hornung, but the power-hitting Hawkeyes said otherwise. Hornung gave two doubles and a two-out, two-run Joey Adams homer – just the fifth jack allowed in his career – and Iowa grabbed back the one-run lead.
After Hornung shut it down completely in the second, the Hawkeyes rebounded in the third, using another two-out RBI to extend their lead to 3-1.
Held to just one hit since the first, left fielder Alex Fitchett sparked the Rainbow Warriors in the fifth with a career-first solo home run to left center – the facility’s second-longest homer at 372 feet. Vchulek followed with a two-out single through the left side, crossing the plate for the second time and the tie run on Dustin Demeter‘s center field RBI single.
However, the Hawkeyes proved resilient, adding an RBI by Robert Neustrom to push back ahead 4-3 in the same inning. That was just a start for the Hawkeyes, who grew their lead to its largest at 7-3 on four consecutive single-run innings.
Although the Rainbow Warriors were silenced the majority of the game’s back half, UH came to life in the ninth against reliever Zach Daniels. Capitalizing on a walk and two singles, freshman right fielder Jacob Sniffin registered his first career hit, an RBI single into right field, as UH mounted a final-frame rally. Johnny Weeks and Vchulek added a sacrifice fly and an RBI single, respectively. Despite three runs scored late and two runners in scoring position, the comeback bid ultimately fell short in the 7-6 loss.
Taking on his shortest appearance of the season, Hornung (0-2) threw 6.0 innings, allowing four runs on 10 hits; striking out five. For Iowa, starter Nick Gallagher (2-0) went 8.0 innings for the win, allowing three runs on seven hits.
At the plate, the top of the order carried the biggest load for UH, paced by Vchulek with a 3-for-4, two run, one RBI performance. Demeter stayed hot with a 3-for-5 outing, adding one RBI. The pair is a combined 10-for-18 (.556) with six RBI and six runs through two games in Minneapolis.
The Rainbow Warriors return to action at the Dairy Queen Classic on Saturday afternoon, facing a rematch with Minnesota at 2:35 p.m. HT at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Gophers play Oral Roberts (8-1) in the DQC late game on Friday.