MESA, Ariz. (HawaiiNewsNow) – The University of Hawai‘i Rainbow baseball team (33-26) won its first conference tournament title in 18 years, defeating the Fresno State Bulldogs (38-25) 9-6 in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game at Hohokam Stadium Sunday.
Sam Spangler (5-6) got the win, allowing just one run in 3.1 innings while Lenny Linsky picked up his 12th save of the season, allowing no earned runs in 2.2 innings. Derek Benny (1-3) took the loss for Fresno State.
This is the first WAC title for the Rainbows since 1992 and clinches UH's first appearance in an NCAA Regional since 2006.
Jeffrey Van Doornum led the way, going 3-for-4 with three RBI, two runs and a homer. Collin Bennett added a 2-for-4 game with one RBI, a double and a run, as he broke the WAC Tournament record for hits with 13. Kevin Macdonald was 2-for-4 with one RBI and one run while David Freitas ended up 2-for-5 with one RBI. Kolten Wong doubled and scored while being walked intentionally twice.
Van Doornum got the offense started in the bottom of the first, hitting a monster shot to centerfield, clearing the 40-foot hitter's eye in center field, to give UH the 1-0 edge. The homer traveled an estimated 470 feet over the huge wall that is listed at 410 feet from the plate.
Fresno State answered with two runs in the second before Garcia and Wong teamed up for a beautiful double play, keeping UH within a run at 2-1. The 'Bows then got it going in the bottom of the inning as Macdonald, Matt Roquemore, Piikea Kitamura and Van Doornum all drove in runs, pushing Hawai‘i to a 5-2 edge.
The Bulldogs answered with an unearned run in the top of the third to get it to 5-3 before the two pitching staffs settled the game, putting up six consecutive zeros on the board.
Then the Rainbows got it going again in the bottom of the sixth as Kitamura and Van Doornum both drove in runs, pushing their lead to 7-3.
Fresno State made their run late, scoring a run in the seventh before two big Rainbow errors led to two runs by the Bulldogs in the top of the eighth, cutting it back to 7-6.
But Hawai‘i atoned for their errors in the bottom of the eighth as David Freitas and Bennett drove in two huge insurance runs to push the lead to 9-6.
In the ninth, Linsky retired the first two batters before allowing back-to-back hits to put runners on second and third. He then induced a ground ball up the middle that went off his glove to Greg Garcia, who threw out the Bulldog runner to end the game.
The Rainbows will now await the announcement of the NCAA Regional pairings, which is set to be aired on ESPN at 12:30 p.m. ET (6:30 a.m. HT).
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