SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors baseball team (18-23, 7-8 Big West) fell on Sunday to No. 16 UC Santa Barbara (29-10, 8-4 Big West) on Sunday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, in a 5-4 loss that all came down to a play at the plate with two outs in the bottom of ninth.
Starting off a back-and-forth battle to close off the series, the Rainbow Warriors went to work early against first-time starter Kyle Nelson, opened by a one-out first inning double to right field by third baseman Johnny Weeks. Shortstop Jacob Sheldon-Collins followed three pitches later with the RBI single to scratch Weeks across.
The Gauchos were able to tie it up in the bottom half, capitalizing on a Michael McAdoo single and an error. He scored from third as Dempsey Grover beat the throw on the UH double play attempt for the RBI fielder’s choice.
UCSB gained its first lead in the second, using a leadoff walk for a quick swing, as a JJ Muno RBI triple pushed them ahead 2-1.
Freshman second baseman Ethan Lopez made his mark in the top of the fourth for the ’Bows, taking a first-pitch ball beyond the left field wall for his first career home run and the tie ballgame at 2-2. Alex Fitchett followed with a double down the line and moved to third on a wild pitch. UH moved back on top as Fitchett scored from third on a Matt LoCoco RBI single through the middle.
After three blank frames of sound pitching by starter Alex Hatch, the Gauchos made some trouble for the ‘Bows. A hit batsman followed an Austin Bush single, and a Clay Fisher sacrifice fly trimmed the deficit. Muno knotted the score at 4-4 with an RBI single off the right field wall, bringing an end to Hatch’s afternoon.
After two innings tied, the ’Bows threatened heavy in the top of the ninth, loading the bases, but an inning-ending double play sent the game tied into the home half, giving UCSB the chance to claim the series sweep.
A leadoff walk proved to be the killstroke, as Ryan Clark reached base and stole second, moving to third on a sacrifice bunt. A McAdoo grounder to shortstop sent the runner and the throw to the plate, as the throw from Sheldon-Collins glanced off the glove of catcher Kekai Rios during a collision at the plate, granting Clark the game-winning score on a walk-off fielder’s choice, 5-4.
Taking over the final 1.2 innings for UH, Matt Valencia (3-1) took the loss, giving one hit and one run. Hatch went 5.2 innings with six hits and four runs, striking out two.
Nelson went 5.0 innings, giving nine hits and four runs for UCSB, but Noah Davis (4-2) earned the win after entering with one out in the ninth.
At the plate, Sheldon-Collins was 4-for-5 with a run and an RBI, collecting four hits for the third time this season. Rios was 2-for-2 with two walks and Fitchett was 2-for-4.
The Rainbow Warriors return home from the seven-game road swing with a 1-6 record, taking on Long Beach State next week at Les Murakami Stadium, May 6-8.
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