The University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (18-26, 9-9 Big West) baseball squad came out hot in Sunday’s finale at Long Beach State (23-20, 8-10 Big West), getting on the board early and carrying the lead into a series sweep with the 6-2 victory at Blair Field.
The Rainbow Warriors exploded in the first on offense, sending eight men through the plate in a challenging start for Long Beach State starter Tanner Brown. Second baseman Stephen Ventimilia got Hawai’i started, coaxing out a full count walk as the leadoff batter. Consecutive singles from outfielders Alan Baldwin and Kaeo Aliviado loaded the bases up, and designated hitter Alex Sawelson cashed in the first run of a big inning with a sacrifice fly.
First baseman Eric Ramirez sent his second pitch through the middle on a hard grounder for an RBI and left fielder Marcus Doi followed with a first-pitch single to left center, capping off a three-run opening frame for the Rainbow Warriors.
After Hawai’i starter Jarrett Arakawa walked the leadoff batter in the home half, the ‘Bows quickly alleviated any concerns for a mirror image frame with a double play lined to Ventimilia and flipped to Ramirez to end the inning. The redshirt senior, Arakawa downed his next nine batters before Joey Sanchez and Luke Rasmussen broke up his hitless run with consecutive singles in the fourth. The ‘Bows calmly dispatched the threat.
After starting out rough, Brown settled in as well, keeping the ‘Bows off the board until the fifth frame. Ventimilia created his own scoring opportunity after reaching on a single through the left side. The redshirt senior stole second-the second time on the game-and moved over to third on a wild pitch. A second wild pitch allowed him to come in for the score after slipping nearly halfway down the line on the throw, pushing Hawai’i ahead 4-0.
The ‘Bows made it consecutive scoring frames in the sixth, as Doi led off with a double into the right center alley, coming home on a Ventimilia fielder’s choice RBI for the 5-0 advantage.
Things got a little tense for Arakawa and Hawai’i in the bottom half of the inning, loading up the bases with no outs, but the ‘Bows blanked the Dirtbags, reeling off a strikeout looking and a double play as Sheldon-Collins flipped the ball from his shortstop position to Ventimilia, and on Ramirez to shut down the threat.
With Arakawa yielding to Andrew Jones coming out of the bullpen to open the seventh, the Dirtbags finally broke through on an Eric Hutting RBI single through the left side. However, the ‘Bows were quick to take the run back, with Jacob Sheldon-Collins making an heads-up play to end the seventh, then leading off the eighth with a triple down the right field line. He would come home to extend the UH lead to 6-1 on a Ventimilia sacrifice fly.
In the final frame, LBSU threatened one final time, but Hutting’s sac fly wasn’t enough to mount a comeback, as Jones got Sanchez swinging to secure the 6-2 victory and the series sweep.
Arakawa (3-3) earned the win through six (6.0) innings of work, allowing six (6) hits but no runs, striking out one (1) and walking another. Jones picked up his first save after three (3) innings in relief, allowing two (2) runs on three (3) hits, striking out three (3).
Ventimilia was clutch for the Rainbow Warriors on Sunday, hitting 2-for-3 with two (2) runs and (2) RBI, aided by a career-high three (3) stolen bases. Ramirez was 3-for-5 on the day with an RBI, while Sawelson and Doi each went 2-for-5, with Doi registering an RBI.
With the victory, Hawai’i completes its second conference sweep this season and head coach Mike Trapasso earns his 400th career coaching victory.
The Rainbow Warriors will remain on the road in southern California in advance of the UC Riverside series next week. The opening game versus the Highlanders is set for Thursday, May 7 in Riverside. The Highlanders (13-32, 2-13 Big West) dropped a series sweep this weekend to Cal State Fullerton and are on a five-game losing streak.