After two batters, the first inning looked like it could be a disaster for the Hawaii baseball team.
Instead, it made the difference in the Rainbows snapping a three-game losing streak.
Hawaii scored five runs off Portland starter Owen Jones, who didn’t record an out in the second inning, and held on for a 5-3 victory last night in front of a Les Murakami Stadium crowd of 2,234.
Breland Almadova had two hits in his first start in six games and Hawaii’s 1 through 4 hitters had all seven of the team’s hits to help the Rainbows (6-8) even the series with the Pilots (7-5) at one game apiece.
"Happy with the win, happy with the pitching, but you’ve got to keep the throttle down when you’re ahead," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said.
Kolten Wong finished with two hits, including an RBI single to score Sean Montplaisir and chase Jones in the second.
Portland’s Chad Kjemhus and Zach Nice combined to hold Hawaii hitless until an eighth-inning single by Almadova, who went 2-for-4 with a walk. Montplaisir followed with a single for Hawaii’s only two hits after the second inning.
The Rainbows managed a first-inning lead at home for the first time all year.
Almadova got things going with a single and Wong followed with a one-out hit to put runners on the corners. Zack Swasey doubled home Almadova for the first run and Jones either walked or hit each of the next four batters to gift wrap the Rainbows a 4-0 lead.
"That was big for us because we’ve been starting slow and playing catch-up," Almadova said. "We were able to get some runs on the board for Connor (Little), who threw well."
Little looked to be the one in trouble to start the game, issuing a four-pitch walk to the leadoff batter. Sam Westendorf hit a line drive to left that Montplaisir dropped, giving Portland two baserunners without a hit.
The junior right-hander regained his composure and got out of the inning without allowing a run, striking out Matt Mardesich for the first of four consecutive punchouts of the Pilots.
"First four pitches I was trying to keep the ball down and was just a little low," Little said. "It’s a big morale booster on the mound and I definitely felt a lot more comfortable out there with the lead."
Little struck out six in the first 31/3 innings before Mardesich tagged a 1-2 pitch deep over the wall in center for a solo home run.
Riley Henricks led off the sixth with a solo blast to left as the Pilots cut the lead to 5-2. Mardesich singled with one out for Ben Grubb, who drilled a hard ground ball off of Little’s leg that bounced to Jeff Van Doornum, who made the play.
Little only lasted two more pitches, as Kevin Armijo hit an RBI single to right, scoring Mardesich to make it a two-run game.
"It got me good in the ankle and stunned me a little at first, but it had nothing to do with why I was taken out," said Little (2-0), who allowed seven hits and all three runs in 52/3 innings with a walk and six strikeouts.
Portland’s last chance at closing the deficit further came in the eighth when pinch hitter Jeff Melby drew a leadoff walk from Michael Blake, who threw 11/3 hitless innings of relief. Closer Lenny Linsky got the call with no outs and immediately got Mardesich to ground into a double play. Linsky didn’t allow a hit and struck out three to earn his fourth save.
"Once it got close I thought Lenny would be in a two-inning save situation," Trapasso said. "We threw the ball well today. I took Connor out because I didn’t want his ankle to swell up at all and force him into a bad pitch because Portland had its best hitter coming up."
A potential all-‘Iolani showdown could highlight the third game of the series today at 3:05 p.m. Portland sophomore J.R. Bunda (0-1, 10.50), a 2009 ‘Iolani grad, is expected to start for the Pilots.
Trapasso said he would start 2010 ‘Iolani grad Jarrett Arakawa.
HAWAII 5, PORTLAND 3
|Kauppila ss||4||0||0||0||Almadova cf||4||1||2||0|
|Westendorf rf||3||0||1||0||Montplaiser lf||3||1||2||0|
|Queen ph||1||0||0||0||Wong 2b||4||1||2||1|
|Henricks 2b||4||1||1||1||VanDoornum 1b||2||1||0||0|
|Gill lf||3||0||0||0||Peterson dh||3||0||0||1|
|Melby ph||0||0||0||0||Kitamura c||2||0||0||1|
|Scott lf||0||0||0||0||George 3b||3||0||0||1|
|Mardesich 3b||4||2||2||1||Moore ss||4||0||0||0|
E-Westendorf, Montplaisir. DP-Portland 1, Hawaii 1. LOB-Portland 7, Hawaii 11. 2B-Montplaisir, Swasey. HR-Henricks, Mardesich. SH-Montplaisir. SB-Van Doornum. CS-Westendorf.
|Jones (L, 1-1)||1||5||5||5||2||1|
|Little (W, 2-0)||52/3||7||3||3||1||6|
|Linsky (S, 4)||2||0||0||0||0||3|
WP-Linsky. HBP-by Jones (Van Doornam, Peterson), by Nice (Kitamura).
Umpires-John Kinard (home plate), Ramon Armendariz (3B), Greg Charles.