HOUSTON - The University of Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors (6-9) baseball team came out on the wrong side of the pitcher's duel against Nebraska (7-5) on Saturday (March 7), in their second game of the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park.
The Rainbow Warriors went right to work offensively in the first inning, showing promise with a leadoff single for center fielder Kaeo Aliviado. However, Nebraska starter Kyle Kubat and the Huskers worked out of it, leaving the 'Bows with bases loaded the first of three times in the game.
The Huskers threatened in the third and fourth innings, but Hawai'i starter Tyler Brashears maintained a steady approach on the mound and escaped each push without damage.
However, in the fifth inning, errors proved costly for the 'Bows, as Brashears sent runners to second and third with a failed pickoff attempt at second that glanced off the helmet of NU shortstop Steven Reveles and into center field. The tandem of Reveles and Jake Schleppenbach scored on second baseman JJ Kitaoka's fielding error to break the deadlock and grant Nebraska the 2-0 advantage.
Fifth-inning miscues aside, Brashears and the 'Bows quickly returned to defensive form and held the Huskers scoreless through the next two frames.
Brashears yielded the mound to reliever Andrew Jones in the top of the eighth and the Huskers began to make their move, leading off with a first-pitch single Ryan Boldt. The Huskers logged RBI from Tanner Lubach and Austin Darby before UH reliever Eric Gleese shut the door on the inning with a 4-0 NU lead.
The 'Bows responded in the top of the ninth, capitalizing on a two-week furlough for NU closer Josh Roeder, with Chayce Ka'aua drawing a leadoff walk, followed by Alex Sawelson and Jacob Sheldon-Collins singles to load the bases for the third time against the Huskers.
Third time proved to be the charm, providing redemption for Kitaoka, who fired a two-out, three-run double deep down the left field line, putting UH squarely back in the game, down just one run. The Huskers pulled their closer in favor of Colton Howell, who intentionally walked 'Bows leading hitter Eric Ramirez. Facing a 1-2 count, Howell's out-pitch got the best of designated hitter Jordan Richartz, who struck out swinging to end the Hawai'i rally in a 4-3 loss.
The 'Bows were not without offensive opportunities against the Huskers, but had challenges converting against the Huskers' high-caliber pitching. In total, the 'Bows left eight (8) runners in scoring position on the day. However, the UH defense forced NU into stranding seven (7) runners of their own.
Brashears (2-2) takes the loss for UH, pitching 7.0 innings while allowing no earned runs and striking out two (2) batters.
Kubat (2-0) picked up the win for the Huskers, throwing 6.1 frames with no runs and five (5) strikeouts. Entering in the ninth with a one-run lead, Howell (1) picked up the save for Nebraska.
Sheldon-Collins proved the most adept Rainbow Warrior at reaching base on Saturday, batting 3-for-4 with one run scored, while Kitaoka was 1-for-4 with the key three-run double.