SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A start that appeared promising quickly faded away for the University of Hawai‘i Rainbow Warriors baseball team (18-21, 7-6 Big West), as No. 16 UC Santa Barbara (27-10, 6-4 Big West) quickly found their offensive stride and pounded out a 14-2 series-opening win on Friday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
The ’Bows got their hitting started early on the Gauchos, as center fielder Matt LoCoco led off his 12th game this year with a hit. Third baseman Johnny Weeks pulled back a bunt for a hit-and-run single into right field, moving LoCoco over to third, later scoring on Jacob Sheldon-Collins’ sacrifice fly at the warning track.
A one-out Devon Gradford walk proved trouble for the ’Bows, as UCSB first baseman Austin Bush launched a two-out homer to center field on the 1-1 pitch, giving the Gauchos the 2-1 advantage and getting the ball rolling on a big all-UCSB offensive outing.
The Gauchos piled on three more runs in the bottom of the second, capitalizing on consecutive one-out singles and a pair of hit batsmen to take the 5-1 advantage. While it looked like starter Brendan Hornung had settled in after the second frame, the Gauchos tallied consecutive two-out singles in the fourth, setting up Dempsey Grover for a three-run homer to left field, building the 8-1 UCSB lead.
UCSB tacked up a three-spot of runs twice more to grow their advantage to 14-1 by the end of the seventh inning.
With reserves filling the batting order, UH converted once more, as freshman Ethan Lopez logged a leadoff double in the eighth and came around to score on a career-first RBI by sophomore Connor Linebarger, trimming the deficit to 14-2.
Hornung (3-7) took the loss for the Rainbow Warriors, throwing only 4.0 innings in his shortest career appearance, giving eight runs (seven earned) on seven hits, hitting three batters and walking another.
For the Gauchos, Shane Bieber (8-2) picked up the win, going 7.0 innings with one run allowed on six hits, striking out seven.
At the plate, Matt LoCoco went 2-for-2 with a walk and a run. Sheldon-Collins brought him home, but went 0-for-1 with the RBI. Linebarger was 1-for-1 with an RBI.
The Rainbow Warriors and Gauchos return to action on Saturday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, set for a 2:00 p.m. PT (11:00 a.m. HT) first pitch.
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