After seven games against top-10 teams, the Hawaii baseball team has made one thing clear:
It’s a good idea not to leave Les Murakami Stadium early.
The Rainbows rallied from a late-inning deficit yet again, only to fall short when Conner George lined into a double play with the bases loaded to give No. 6 Texas a 4-3 victory in front of a crowd of 2,811.
Hawaii, which scored seven of its eight runs in the series after the seventh inning, finished a string of seven games against top-10 teams 3-4.
In all three wins, UH trailed by at least two runs in the eighth. Yesterday, Texas (5-3) had a 4-0 lead at that point when Pi’ikea Kitamura hit a two-run homer off Hoby Milner for UH’s first round-tripper of the season.
In the ninth, Hawaii loaded the bases with one out and Jeff Van Doornum singled through the left side to score Kolten Wong, who had three hits.
George, who started at third with Kitamura handling the catching duties, had either struck out or walked in all seven plate appearances this season.
He quickly fell behind 0-2, then hit a bullet right back to pitcher Keifer Nuncio, who calmly threw to first to double off Van Doornum and put a quick end to another close game.
"That team (Hawaii) really competes to win," Texas coach Augie Garrido said. "They really turned it up with the game on the line … but I feel good that we played hard almost every
inning and handled this whole environment very well."
Things don’t get easier for UH, which hits the road this week for the first time this season. The Rainbows will play a four-game series beginning Thursday at Loyola Marymount, which is 7-1 following a three-game sweep of Nevada.
"If that’s how top-10 teams are, then I think we can be right there playing with them," said Van Doornum, who was 2-for-5. "A couple inches to the left or right, and it’s a different story today, but that’s the game of baseball and we’ll still come out and play the same way and battle to the end."
The big concern for the Rainbows as they hit the road is shoring up a defense that had four more errors yesterday, giving them 19 in seven games.
Two throwing errors by Wong, who has five total, led to the first three Texas runs. UT freshman Mark Payton, who had two hits in the game, singled to lead off the eighth and scored on a stolen base at third when Kitamura’s throw sailed into left field to make it 4-0.
"We’ve got a couple of guys trying to do too much, but it’s something we will fix," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "Physical errors are part of baseball, and what you do is continue to work at it, which we always do.
"We’ve always been very good defensively, and we will be before it’s all over."
Kitamura atoned for the error in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer to cut the Texas lead in half. Hawaii was 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position when Kitamura turned on an inside fastball and drove it over the left-field wall.
"I’ve been struggling this whole series and made a small adjustment with my hands," Kitamura said. "I was looking for something I could drive, and I got one."
Three unearned runs were charged to Hawaii starter Jesse Moore (0-1), who took the loss allowing six hits in four innings. Senior Alex Capaul threw four innings of one-hit ball and Lenny Linsky pitched a perfect ninth.
Texas left-hander Sam Stafford (1-0) threw 5 1/3 shutout innings to notch the win, walking five with 10 strikeouts. The Longhorns used five different pitchers for the second straight game, relying on Nuncio to get the game-ending double play to earn his first save.
"We’re a team in transition and still trying to find our closer," Garrido said. "We threw at (Hawaii) the very best we had, but they have a real strong instinct to win late in the game."
Zack Swasey, making his first start at designated hitter, singled in the seventh to stretch his hitting streak to six games.
TEXAS 4, HAWAII 3
|Montalbano lf||4||0||0||0||Wong 2b/3b||5||0||3||0|
|Low ss||3||0||1||0||Swasey dh||3||1||1||0|
|Payton rf||4||1||2||0||Montplaisir lf||5||0||1||0|
|Weiss 3b||3||1||1||0||Bennett rf/cf||3||0||0||0|
|Walla cf||3||0||1||0||Van Doornum 1b||5||1||2||1|
|Kephart dh||2||1||0||0||George 3b/ss||3||0||0||0|
|Maitland pr||0||0||0||0||Kitamura c||3||1||1||2|
|Lusson c||4||0||0||0||Almadova cf||2||0||0||0|
|Shepherd 1b||4||0||1||1||Peterson ph||1||0||0||0|
|Etier 2b||4||1||1||0||Koissian rf||0||0||0||0|
E–Weiss; Etier; Wong 2; George; Kitamura. DP–Texas 2. LOB–Texas 6; Hawaii 12. 2B–Weiss. HR–Kitamura. SH–Weiss; Walla; Kephart. SF–Loy. SB–Montalbano; Payton. CS–Payton; Swasey.
|Stafford (W, 1-0)||5 1/3||3||0||0||5||10|
|Nuncio (S, 1)||2/3||0||0||0||0||0|
|Moore (L, 0-1)||4||6||3||0||0||1|
Umpires–Bill Speck (Plate); Scott Higgins (First); Joe Burleson (Third).