The University of Hawai'i baseball team (25-17, 7-8 BWC) remains at home for the first of two final home series, spanning the Rainbow Warriors Graduation weekend with UC Irvine (17-28, 4-11 BWC) coming to Les Murakami Stadium.
Typically an upper-tier squad in the Big West, the Anteaters are in a down year and come to Murakami Stadium with just four conference wins after dropping a series to CSUN over the weekend at home. UCI will face San Diego on Tuesday night before heading to Honolulu on Thursday morning. The Anteaters are 8-13 away from Irvine this year.
The Rainbow Warriors sit near the midline in conference record and are fifth in the latest Big West standings. UH dropped the series, 2-1, to No. 14 Cal State Fullerton at home, but the 'Bows were in position to make a move in each loss against the highly-lauded Titans.
The Anteaters have a distinctive advantage in the overall series, leading UH 25-8 in the series dating back to 1974. Although the 'Bows are 2-10 against UC since joining the Big West, the two wins came last season as UH took the 2016 series win, snapping a nine-game losing streak.
Leading the Anteaters is junior all-everything designated hitter Keston Hiura, who leads the Big West in batting average (.417), slugging percentage (.701), on-base percentage (.558), runs (39), doubles (18) and walks (43). Ranking second nationally in batting average and fifth in walks, Hiura has 64 hits (including eight homers) and 34 RBI on the year. No surprise that senior shortstop Mickey Duarte is also producing for UC Irvine after leading the conference in hitting last year. Duarte is hitting .329 with 16 doubles, 29 runs and 21 RBI, reaching base at a .411 clip.
As a team, UCI is hitting .273 with 5.2 runs per game. However, the Anteaters also hold a pitching staff ERA at 5.50 and allow 6.1 runs per contest. Opponents have batted .300 against UCI this season.
After facing the stingy pitching staff from Fullerton, that could be just what the doctor ordered for 'Bows batters, who average .269 and 5.1 runs per game. Reaching base in every game of his UH career, center fielder Dylan Vchulek has pulled ahead to be the UH batting leader, averaging .324 to rank ninth in the BWC. The junior has a team-high 32 runs, 22 RBI and 12 stolen bases. His reached base streak of 42 games ties for the third-longest active streak in the nation.
Steady all year, catcher Kekai Rios is hitting .313 with nine doubles, 21 runs and 19 RBI. Over the weekend, it was junior second baseman Johnny Weeks who served as hero for the 'Bows, batting .600 against the stalwart Titans, chipping in a two-run homer in the game two win, as well as a double in the opener.
In the 2017 season the Rainbow Warriors have been powering the ball, hitting 18 more home runs than a year ago, led by Eric Ramirez (5), and have surpassed 2016's doubles count by two (80), paced by Josh Rojas and Adam Fogel with 12 apiece.
The 'Bows pitching staff remains stingy as well, holding a 3.61 ERA to rank second in the Big West and 35th nationally. Despite recent struggles, the Rainbow Warriors still rank fifth in the NCAA with just 2.3 free passes per contest.
With commencement exercises taking place at the Stan Sheriff Center and Clarence T.C. Ching Field on Saturday (May 13), the Rainbow Warriors and Anteaters will meet in a Friday, Sunday, Monday series this week.
Hawaii Athletics Release
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