HONOLULU – The University of Hawai'i (18-9) baseball team gutted out a series-clinching victory in Sunday's non-conference finale against Nevada (8-21) at Les Murakami Stadium. Earning a 3-2 win over the Wolf Pack, the Rainbow Warriors head into Big West play over .500 – in this case nine games over – for the first time since joining the league.
It was Hawai'i's early offense that turned out to be the difference in Sunday's victory, as center fielder Dylan Vchulek got the Rainbow Warriors started with a leadoff single in the first, and crossed the plate two batters later on an RBI single by third baseman Josh Rojas.
For their efforts, the 'Bows chased off starter Cole Henderson, who was relieved by Grant Ford in the second inning.
Rojas came up big for the 'Bows in the third as well, launching an RBI triple to the right field wall to bring hit batsman Kekai Rioas home. Rojas came home himself in short order, as right fielder Adam Fogel tabbed an RBI single for the three-run advantage.
Making his first daytime start at Les Murakami, starter Neil Uskali kept the Wolf Pack off the board until the fourth, when Grant Fennell's RBI single to right center allowed former UH player Mike Echavia to cross the plate. A throwing error allowed on additional Nevada run to cross in the seventh, trimming the UH lead to a single run.
Setting up shop in relief of Uskali, Dylan Thomas kept Nevada scoreless through the final two frames. The redshirt freshman right-hander picked up his third save after Rojas delivered again for UH, climbing the latter on a line drive snag – robbing Nevada of the tying run with two outs in the ninth.
Uskali (4-1) went 7.0 innings for the win, allowing one earned run on seven hits, striking out seven with no walks.
Rojas led the 'Bows at the plate with a 2-for-4 performance, scoring one run and batting in two runs. He added two assists and three putouts on defense as well.
With the win, the Rainbow Warriors captured the 3-1 series win. The 18-9 start matches the 2006 squad that finished 45-17 as WAC Runner-Up. Hawai'i also closed up non-conference play with the Wolf Pack.
UH holds the best overall record among Big West schools, but will start the week in fifth as the only school that has not played a conference game.
The Rainbow Warriors start Big West play next week, kicking off a six-game road swing with a three-game set at Cal Poly (10-17). The Mustangs started conference play this weekend with a 2-1 series victory at UC Irvine.