It might have been 25 degrees outside, but within the confines of U.S. Bank Stadium on Thursday, things were heating up for University of Hawai'i (4-4) baseball as they opened a four-game road swing with Minnesota (4-3) with a big win in advance of the 30th Dairy Queen Classic.
The Rainbow Warriors stepped up offensively early in the one-off contest, drawing a three-run lead early over the defending Big Ten Champion Gophers, but it was a five-walk, six-run ninth that closed the book on the 11-2 victory.
The Rainbow Warriors came out swinging in the top of the first, as Dylan Vchulek extended his reached base streak to all eight games this year with a leadoff single. Looking like he may stay be stranded on first after two outs, left fielder Alex Fitchett sent him home with an RBI double down the left field line for the 1-0 first inning advantage.
Rookie shortstop Dustin Demeter made just one of several big plays with a statement in the top of the second, tallying with a pair of firsts – his inaugural home run and the first homer for Hawai'i in the 2017 season – a two-run shot to right center, which also brought designated hitter Logan Pouelsen in from third.
Batting .339 coming into the game, the Gophers couldn't be held off the scoreboard completely for too long. UM strung together a single, double and a fielder's choice to load the bases in the fourth. Toby Hansen cashed in the opportunity with a sacrifice fly, but the 'Bows escaped with one run allowed.
After four blank frames, Fitchett and Adam Fogel got the 'Bows going once again, scoring in the top of the seventh courtesy of right fielder Ethan Lopez' two-run single, pressing the lead to 5-1.
The retort from Minnesota was quick, as Jordan Smith added a seventh-inning solo home run to scale UH's lead back to three runs.
Holding a healthy leady already, the flood gates broke in the top of the ninth in UH's favor, as four Minnesota pitchers struggled to find the strike zone. The Gophers allowed six runs and RBI walks for Josh Rojas, Fitchett, Adam Fogel and Johnny Weeks after Demeter capped off a season-best performance with a two-run single to right field.
Making his third quality start, Dominic DeMiero (2-0) collected the win after 8.0 innings, giving two runs on seven hits, while striking out six with no walks. For Minnesota, starter Tyler Hansen (0-1) took the loss, throwing 4.0 innings with three runs on six hits.
The 'Bows fired off a season-best 14 hits, the most base knocks in 31 games. Five Rainbow Warriors had a multi-hit outing, paced by Demeter's 2-for-5, four RBI, two run performance. Fitchett also went 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run.
The Rainbow Warriors remain in Minneapolis through the weekend, starting competition on Friday at the 30th Dairy Queen Classic. First pitch against Iowa (4-2) on Friday is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. HT back at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Hawaii News Now
420 Waiakamilo Road, Suite 205
Honolulu, HI 96817
Main (808) 847-3246
News (808) 847-1112