HONOLULU – Returning home with a successful 4-2 Big West record and two conference series wins, the University of Hawai’i baseball team (18-11, 4-2 BWC) returns to the confines of Les Murakami Stadium as hosts to UC Riverside (13-14, 3-3 BWC) in the Rainbow Warriors’ third conference series.
Sitting in a three-game tie at the top of the Big West standings, the Rainbow Warriors have really been swinging the bat to kick off the conference slate. After hitting .254 in non-conference games, the ‘Bows have batted a stunning .347 with an average of 13 hits and 6.3 runs per Big West contest.
Powering the ‘Bows through the start of league games, junior third baseman/catcher Kekai Rios is seeing the ball well and batted a team-leading .458 in games at UC Irvine and UC Davis. Meanwhile senior left fielder Johnny Weeks hit .435 and Dustin Demeter batted .389. Speaking of Weeks, he claimed sole ownership of second on the UH career sac bunts list over the weekend, and is now just four shy of tying the school record and ranks first in the nation.
The leader all season, sophomore right fielder Adam Fogel leads the ‘Bows in almost every offensive category, batting a team-high .339 with the ‘Bows’ most RBI (22), runs (19) and doubles (14). After 29 games, he’s just a pair of two-baggers short of last year’s total, ranking seventh in the NCAA in the stat.
Although the road swing was tough on the bullpen, Hawai’i’s pitching still ranks 62nd in the NCAA with a 3.67 ERA, but Cal State Fullerton has finally edged out the ‘Bows for the league lead, after UH held the frontrunner position since game one. Helping the effort, UH ranks 16th nationally with just 2.93 walks per game, and is 12th with 1.03 double plays per outing.
With his victory on Saturday, senior right-hander Neil Uskali takes over to top BWC spot for pitching wins, tying for eighth nationally with six. Ranking among the best closers in the country, sophomore Dylan Thomas is sixth in the NCAA after matching last year’s save total of nine over the weekend. With 18 career saves, he ties for fourth in the UH career list.
The Highlanders have won the series against UC Davis (2-1) but fell last week against CSUN (2-1). UCR will play just their seventh game away from home and are 2-4 on the road. As a team, the Highlanders are batting .264 with an average 9.1 hits and 4.7 runs per game. Five UCR batters with solid experience are hitting over .300. The team’s leader in hits, shortstop Colby Shultz is hitting .320 with a team-best 21 runs and 11 RBI. Meanwhile designated hitter Connor Cannon (.255) and third baseman Nathan Webb (.266) don’t have the averages, but they have the numbers. Cannon paces the Highlanders with 23 RBI, tabbing six home runs and 12 runs. Webb has 11 doubles on the season to lead UCR.
A tough pitching foe heading to LMS, UCR ranks 99th nationally with a 4.20 team ERA, allowing 9.8 hits and 5.0 runs per contest. The Highlanders have seen seven one-run games this year. UCR has used a steady 1-2 punch of right-handers Trenton Toplikar and Cole Percival to open up each series, but have tried several in the third starter position. Toplikar comes in with a 3-2 record and 3.70 ERA, striking out 37 with only seven walks for the NCAA’s 64th-best walk ratio at 1.52 per game. Percival is 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA, striking out 32 with 15 walks and allowing just 6.6 hits per game. Closing things out, right-hander Jared Morton is a solid back-end reliever with a 1.42 ERA, 2-1 record and five saves, allowing just three walks to 21 strikeouts.
The Rainbow Warriors and Highlanders meet for just the 18th time to start the series which dates back to 1973. UH holds a 10-7 advantage. The series is split 5-5 in Honolulu and the ‘Bows are 9-3 against UCR across the past four seasons.
Another road stretch awaits the ‘Bows after the UCR series, traveling to CSU Bakersfield on April 18, ahead of a key three-game series at Cal State Fullerton (April 20-22).
University of Hawai’i Games 30-32
What: Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (18-11, 4-2 BWC) vs. UC Riverside Highlanders (13-14, 3-3 BWC)
When: Friday, April 13, 6:35 p.m. HT
Saturday, April 14, 6:35 p.m. HT
Sunday, April 15, 1:05 p.m. HT
Where: Honolulu, O’ahu (Les Murakami Stadium)
Radio: All games will be broadcast live on the radio on ESPN Honolulu 1420 AM with Jim Leahey and Josh Pacheco. 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 Hawai’i Athletics throughout the series at the links listed below.
|Game 1||Game 2||Game 3|
Promotions: Coca-Cola is the series sponsor and will be giving away great prizes each day. Friday (April 13) contest will be followed by an autograph session on the field. Saturday (April 14)Little League teams or groups that have purchased a group rate ticket package are invited onto the field to stand alongside the UH baseball players for the National Anthem & Hawaii Pono’i prior toSaturday’s game (Check-in 30 min. prior to first pitch on Saturday near the Big West Conference logo on the ground level). Sunday Funday (April 15): Ticket Package 1 – $25 for family of four (two adults and two youth); Ticket Package 2 – $40 (four adults). Each ticket package includes four (4) upper level tickets, four (4) hot dogs, and four (4) bottle soda/water (while supplies last). Tickets can be purchased online, calling 944-2697 (option 2), walking up to the Les Murakami Stadium on game day or in advance at the Stan Sheriff Center Box Office.