Garrett Champion’s Hawaii debut couldn’t have gone much better.
The walk-on catcher doubled and homered in his first two at-bats, finishing 3-for-4 with two RBIs to lead the Rainbows to a 10-1 victory over Centenary last night in front of a Les Murakami Stadium crowd of 1,940.
Hawaii (8-9) scored at least 10 runs in a game for the second time this year. Champion became the fourth Rainbow to start a game behind the plate this season.
"He’s earned himself a chance because he’s so engaged and has worked so hard," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "It’s something that we need for sure because it keeps Pi’ikea (Kitamura) at third and solidifies our infield."
Champion fittingly recorded the final out of the game, catching a foul pop-up behind home plate. Hawaii defeated a team by more than two runs for the first time this season. Five of its eight wins have been by one run.
"I was just excited to be able to contribute to the team," Champion said. "It was good to give the team some fire and get it done today."
Junior Matt Sisto (1-2) pitched a career-high eight innings, allowing the one run on six hits with one walk and seven strikeouts to earn his first win. In his previous four starts this season, Sisto struggled to get past the seventh inning, but managed to work eight full, striking out Nic Parrott with two outs and two men on in the eighth.
"It’s easy to go out there and pound the zone when you have such a big lead," Sisto said. "It was a big situation for me not to give up another run and only give up one through eight, so I just had to bear down and throw a pretty good slider."
The Rainbows scored in five of the first seven innings and never trailed against the Gents (3-7). Kolten Wong finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Jesse Moore was 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
Sixteen position players played for Hawaii, including Kalani Brackenridge, who played at both third and second. Wong, who has played second and catcher this year, spent the final two innings at short.
"I’ve come into this weekend with the intent to play Kolten some at shortstop," Trapasso said.
Kitamura had two-out RBI singles in each of the first two innings. Leading 1-0 after the first, the Rainbows scored four times in the second for a 5-0 lead.
Champion’s double in his first at-bat as a Rainbow scored David Peterson, who led off the inning with a walk.
Centenary starter Cole Thompson was yanked after the walk to Peterson, his fourth of the game. Moore followed Champion’s hit with a single to right field. Champion scored on the play after an error was charged to the catcher for failing to catch the throw from right.
Breland Almadova drew the second of his three walks and Wong followed with an RBI single to make it 4-0.
UH added three runs in the third off of Sam Martin, the third Gents pitcher of the game. Champion drilled a line-drive shot over the fence in left for a home run and Sean Montplaisir drove in Moore with an RBI single.
Centenary scored its only run on a homer from Kyle Morton in the fourth, erasing the shutout.
Thompson dropped his record to 0-4 and has walked 12 batters in 11 innings this season.
Hawaii made wholesale changes to start the seventh, up 9-1. Brackenridge made his season debut at third, replacing Kitamura. Conner George took over at shortstop for Moore, Easton Torigoe replaced Jeff Van Doornum at first, Chase Koissian substituted for Zack Swasey in right field and Collin Bennett took over for Almadova in center.
Michael Blake pinch-hit for Montplaisir in the bottom of the seventh and tripled under the glove of Seth Lugo, who made a diving attempt in right. On the very next play, Pete Rajkovich robbed Wong of a single up the middle, but it was enough to bring home Blake for a 10-1 lead.
Also making his UH debut was junior pitcher Riley Welch, who threw a perfect ninth inning.
The four-game series continues tonight at 6:35 p.m. Left-hander Jarrett Arakawa (0-2, 6.00) will take the mound for the Rainbows in place of Connor Little, who is skipping his scheduled start to rest his arm after experiencing some stiffness earlier in the week.