Sacramento State didn’t make it easy, and it never is in the Western Athletic Conference.
Ultimately, the Hawaii Rainbows found a way to persevere and notch their first sweep in conference play in five years. Blair Walters got pinch hitter A.J. Nunez to fly out to center with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to clinch a 3-2 victory yesterday in front of a Les Murakami Stadium crowd of 1,275.
Lenny Linsky allowed three hits and a walk and hit a batter in the ninth for the Hornets’ only two runs in the game. With the tying runner 90 feet from home, Trapasso brought in Walters to get the final out and earn his second save of the series.
"We got by by the skin of our teeth today," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "We’ve seen that over the years it’s almost impossible (to sweep). This is our first since we’ve gone to the four-game format and it’s really, really difficult no matter who it is."
Hawaii (18-14) extended its winning streak to a season-high six games, but more importantly, jumped out to a 4-0 start in league play. The other four teams that opened the conference season split their series, giving UH a two-game lead on the field.
After scorching the Hornets (9-24, 0-4) for 16 runs in the opener, Hawaii managed just 16 hits in the final three games.
The Rainbows made up for it by allowing eight runs in four games. Zach Gallagher (4-1) started in place of Jesse Moore, who got the nod at shortstop, and tossed seven shutout innings to earn his team-best fourth win.
Gallagher has pitched in 10 games and started three, lowering his ERA to 1.95 in 321⁄3 innings. With a healthy Moore currently getting the bulk of the action at short, it’s possible that Gallagher could move into the No. 4 spot in the rotation permanently.
"The way he pitched today, it’d be hard not to," Trapasso said. "We can always bring Jesse out of the bullpen, and that’s a situation where last year at this time, if I ever took out Lenny, it would have been to bring in somebody like Jesse."
Linsky, whose 18 saves are tied for the third most in school history, struggled in both of his outings against the Hornets. He got the save in Saturday’s 3-2 win despite allowing his first earned run this season and couldn’t shut the door yesterday with a three-run lead.
"It’s never easy to take Lenny out, but he’s in a little bit of a funk right now and not making good pitches," Trapasso said. "If he’s got the sink (on his pitches), he can take care of anybody, but he just doesn’t have it right now."
The Rainbows scored what proved to be the deciding run in the eighth on a two-out RBI single by Jeff Van Doornum. Kolten Wong, who went 4-for-8 with seven walks in the series, drew a base on balls with two outs. He proceeded to steal second and third and scored on Van Doornum’s hit that just got through the middle of the infield.
Zack Swasey had three of UH’s four hits, delivering a two-out, two-run single in the first after Hornets starter Tanner Mendonca walked three men in the inning.
"Batting average is nice, but it’s the RBI that wins the games, so when there are guys in scoring position I get really disappointed if I don’t get a hit," Swasey said.
Those were the only two runs Mendonca (1-3) gave up in seven innings.
Wong had three steals in the game and has a team-high 13 this season, and is batting an even .400.
Hawaii returns to the field to host Louisiana Tech (17-15, 2-2) for the first of four games on Friday.
|New Mexico State||2||2||.500||2||24||8|
|San Jose State||2||2||.500||2||21||11|
Yesterday Hawaii 3, Sacramento State 2 Fresno State 5, San Jose State 3 Louisiana Tech 10, New Mexico State 0 (7) Nevada 2, Seattle 0
HAWAII 3, SACRAMENTO STATE 2
|Ayers cf||3||0||0||1||Almadova cf||3||1||0||0|
|Higley dh||4||0||0||0||Kitamura 3b||4||0||0||0|
|Nunez ph||1||0||0||0||Wong 2b||2||2||0||0|
|DlGrnd 1b||4||0||1||0||VanDrnm rf||3||0||1||1|
|Adrian lf||4||0||0||0||Blake 1b||4||0||0||0|
|Chung c||3||1||1||0||Swasey dh||3||0||3||2|
|Young ss||4||1||1||0||Montplaisir lf||2||0||0||0|
|Miller 2b||3||0||2||0||Champion c||3||0||0||0|
|Turner rf||4||0||1||0||Moore ss||3||0||0||0|
|Sac. St. (9-24, 0-4)||000||000||002||—||2||5||1|
|UH (18-14, 4-0)||200||000||01x||—||3||4||1|
LOB–Sacramento St. 9, Hawaii 5. 2B–Chung, Swasey. SB–Miller 2, Almadova, Wong 3, Van Doornum.
HBP–by Gallagher (Ayers), by Linsky (Ayers). Umpires–(Plate): Dwayne Finley. (First):Dick Flaherty. (Third):Chuck Lyon. T–2:20. A–1,275.