March 13 is a day the Hawaii Rainbows may look back upon in May as the turning point of the season.
Kolten Wong stepped up at the first real crucial point of the season, smacking a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Rainbows a 6-5 victory over Portland yesterday at Les Murakami Stadium.
Wong couldn’t have picked a better time to treat a crowd of 1,638 to his first two long balls of the season.
After Hawaii blew an eighth-inning lead for the second straight game, Wong smoked a game-tying, two-run homer that forced extra innings.
With one out in the 10th, Wong delivered the decisive blow, sending a second ball over the wall in right field to give the Rainbows (7-9) the win.
"This is something that we can build confidence off of, which we’ve been lacking for a while," Wong said. "This win is something that I think will help us."
After Portland (8-6) scored four runs in the eighth, the Rainbows were on the verge of another heartbreaking defeat. The victory not only kept Hawaii from losing its second series of the season, but erased any lingering doubts from Saturday’s crushing loss moving forward.
"After that eighth inning, you’re thinking, ‘Holy smokes, we’re about to give another one away,’ " Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "That was a big win for us to pick us up."
Jesse Moore followed Jarrett Arakawa’s superb start with a gem of his own, allowing just three hits in the first seven innings. Moore tied his career high with six strikeouts and left the game with Hawaii leading 5-2 in the eighth.
As good as Hawaii’s four starters pitched against the Pilots, the bullpen struggled to close games out. Portland scored 15 of its 23 runs in the series in the eighth or ninth inning.
Yesterday, Matt Mardesich delivered the big blow, unloading a three-run double off of Alex Capaul. Kevin Armijo hit a run-scoring single off Blair Walters, who later walked Tyler Thompson to load the bases.
The right-handed Capaul came on to face the righty in Mardesich, who drove a 2-1 pitch to the wall in center to clear the bases.
"That was a mistake on my part," Trapasso said. "I went righty on righty, but even though Alex is a senior, he isn’t used to being in those situations, so that was dumb on my part … I felt like I cost us on that one."
Wong’s first homer gave the Rainbows another chance, but the Pilots continued to press in the ninth. Zach Gallagher inherited two runners on base with nobody out and got a big strikeout of Craig Smith. An intentional walk to set up the double play loaded the bases, but Gallagher worked out of it, getting Riley Henricks to foul out to first and Sam Westendorf to bounce back to the pitcher.
Gallagher (2-0) worked a perfect 10th inning to get the win.
"Two guys already on with nobody out and we knew they were going to try and bunt," Gallagher said. "I didn’t want to throw it away with one pitch, so I kept the ball out of the dirt and tried to throw strikes and let my defense make the play."
The last time Wong hit two home runs in a game, it came in the very same fashion. A home run in the eighth tied the score and a second in the 10th gave the Rainbows a win over Louisiana Tech in the first game of the Western Athletic Conference tournament, propelling them to their first conference title in 18 years.
Portland coach Chris Sperry tried to counter Wong by bringing in lefties for both at-bats. Neither pitcher could keep Wong from leaving the yard.
"What can you say? The kid is a hell of a player and was the hero today," Sperry said. "We’re very disappointed we didn’t finish the deal when we had an opportunity to. We came here to win a series and didn’t do that."
Jeff Van Doornum also homered for the ‘Bows, who hit more long balls yesterday than they had in their first 15 games.
Sean Montplaisir and David Peterson had two hits apiece and Breland Almadova doubled and scored twice for UH.
Hawaii’s seven-week, 27-game homestand continues on Friday with the first of four games against Centenary (2-5), which lost two of three over the weekend to Grambling.
HAWAII 6, PORTLAND 5, 10 INNINGS
|TThompson cf/ph||0||0||0||0||Almadova cf||4||2||1||0|
|CThompson cf||2||0||0||0||Montplaisir lf||5||1||2||1|
|Smith cf||2||0||0||0||Wong 2b||5||2||2||3|
|Armijo dh||4||1||1||1||Swasey rf||3||0||1||1|
|Henricks 2b||5||1||1||0||Kitamura 2b||4||0||0||0|
|Gill lf||3||1||1||0||VanDoornum 1b||4||1||2||1|
|Westendorf pr/rf||1||1||0||0||Bayus 3b||4||0||1||0|
|Mardesich 3b||5||0||2||4||Peterson dh||4||0||2||0|
|Grubb c||4||0||0||0||Koissian pr||0||0||0||0|
|Frattali 1b||5||0||0||0||George ss||3||0||0||0|
|Scott rf/lf||3||1||1||0||Bennett ph||0||0||0||0|
|Queen ph/lf||1||0||1||0||Harrison ss||0||0||0||0|
One out when game ended.
E–George, Swasey. DP–Portland 2, Hawaii 1. LOB–Portland 8, Hawaii 5. 2B–Mardesich 2; Armijo; Gill, Almadova; Van Doornum; Peterson. HR–Wong 2; Van Doornum. HBP–McCoy. SB–C.Thompson; CS–Swasey.
|Burris (L, 0-1)||1/3||1||1||1||0||0|
|Gallagher (W, 2-0)||2||0||0||0||1||1|
WP–Kraus; Brynteson; Blake; Gallagher. HBP — by Blake (McCoy). BK–Moore.
Umpires–Greg Charles (home plate), John Kinard (1B), Ramon Armendiaz (3B).