‘Bows revive long time WAC rivalry at Fresno State this weekend

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The University of Hawai’i baseball team (23-19) will head back to northern California for its final non-conference series of the 2018 campaign, squaring off with Fresno State (27-21) in a three-game set at Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium, Friday-Saturday (May 11-13).
In a tie for fourth in the Big West standings, Hawai’i will step away from league play looking to snap three straight series losses with the Mountain West and former Western Athletic Conference foe. The ‘Bows are 6-8 in true road games this season.
Unstoppable since late March, junior catcher Kekai Rios is locked into his leadership role for Hawai’i at the plate, batting a Big West fifth-best .331. Rios has collected a base knock in 21 of the last 24 games, which included a now-broke 17-game hit streak and a .386 average since he took charge of UH’s hitting leadership. He’s scored 19 times and batted in 15 runs, ranking third in the Big West with a .441 on-base percentage.

The unsung hero of a leadoff man, junior shortstop Maaki Yamazaki has quietly moved to the top of the Hawai’i hitting stats, batting .318 with a team-high 49 hits, smacking eight doubles to record 15 RBI and a team-high 29 runs while reaching base at a .411 clip. Fanned just 13 times in 154 at-bats, Yamazaki remains the 42nd toughest batter to strike out in the nation.

The ‘Bows have seen some wear-and-tear on the pitching staff of late and played without two full-time starters in the weekend series against Cal Poly. The return of Neil Uskali (6-2, 4.12 ERA) and Dominic DeMiero (2-4, 5.24 ERA) will be determined later in the week. In the meantime, the ‘Bows can count on Friday night starter Jackson Rees to open things up. He’s got a 4-2 record, 3.54 ERA and a team-high 49 strikeouts. The most steady force for the ‘Bows has been closer Dylan Thomas with a 2-1 record, 1.39 ERA, 37 strikeout in 32.1 innings and an NCAA ninth-most 12 saves. Thomas also saw an extended 4.0-inning appearance on Sunday vs. the Mustangs.

After a sweep at Nevada, the Bulldogs carried a four-game losing skid into midweek action at CSUN, winning 6-3 in Northridge. Fresno State is 20-10 at home this season and are 12-5 in non-conference games. As a unit, FS bats .299 with an average of 10.4 hits and 5.9 runs per outing.

Center fielder Zach Ashford leads a potent Bulldog hitting group with five batters over .300, hitting a team-high .359 himself to produce 17 doubles, 31 runs and 24 RBI. Hitting .330, Jeremiah Burks also has scored a co-team-leading 33 times with 11 doubles and co-team-high seven homers, batting in 34 runs. Carter Bins leads the team with 18 doubles, shares the team high in homers, leads with 39 RBI and has also scored 33 times.

On the mound, Fresno State has a 5.08 team ERA, allowing an average of 9.3 hits and 5.8 runs. Look for the Bulldogs to throw right-hander Edgar Gonzalez (7-2, 2.95 ERA, 95 SO) and left-hander Jaime Arias (5-1, 3.12 ERA, 58 SO), with a third starter still in flux.

In a series debuted in 1960, the Rainbow Warriors and Bulldogs will meet for the 133rd time to open the series on Friday. Fresno State leads the series 80-52. In addition to regular-season competition, UH and FS met nine times in the WAC tournament in the former conference rivalry. The teams last met in 2013 with an 8-6 FS win in Honolulu and UH won the last series, 2-1. The last two times in Fresno, the series were split 2-2.

Next week, the Rainbow Warriors will wrap up their home slate with Senior Weekend against Long Beach State, Friday-Sunday (May 18-20) at Les Murakami Stadium, with 12 seniors making their final home showing in front of the Hawai’i fanbase.

University of Hawai’i Games 43-45
What: Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (23-19) at Fresno State Bulldogs (27-21)
When:  Friday, May 11, 3:05 p.m. HT
              Saturday, May 12, 3:05 p.m. HT
              Sunday, May 13, 10:05 a.m. HT
Where: Fresno, Calif. (Bob Bennett Stadium)
Live Streaming: All three games will appear on the Mountain West Network.
Radio: All games will be broadcast live on the radio on ESPN Honolulu 1420 AM with Scott Galetti on the call. Neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KHLO in Hilo, KKON in Kona and KTOH on Kaua’i.
Audio Webcast: www.ESPN1420am.com
Live Stats: Live in-game stats will be provided by Fresno State Athletics throughout the series.

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