MESA, Ariz. » If the Hawaii Rainbows are to duplicate last year’s Western Athletic Conference tournament championship, they’ll have to do it the hard way.
UH needs to win three games in two days to secure the league’s automatic NCAA tournament berth after falling to second-seeded Fresno State 11-5 on Friday at Hohokam Stadium.
Dusty Robinson’s WAC-leading 16th home run drove in the first three batters of the game and Kenny Wise hit a two-run homer for the Bulldogs (39-14), who never trailed.
Hawaii starter Jarrett Arakawa was tagged for six runs in three innings and issued four of Hawaii’s eight walks.
"We didn’t deserve the win the way we pitched," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "(Fresno) came out and jumped all over Jarrett, who didn’t have an answer for them."
The Rainbows (33-24) are in a situation similar to the one the Bulldogs found themselves in last year. Fresno State, which had a string of four consecutive tournament titles ended by Hawaii, won two Saturday games to force a Sunday finale that the Rainbows won 9-6.
"This was the big one," Fresno State coach Mike Batesole said. "Now you can do it in one, instead of if you lose, it’s going to take three."
Hawaii will try to pull off the feat beginning with a game at noon against Louisiana Tech, which beat San Jose State 9-5.
The winner will play Fresno State at 4 p.m. If necessary, the title game Sunday is at 9 a.m.
>> Game 9: Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii, noon
>> Game 11: G10 winner vs. G10 loser (if necessary), 9 a.m.
"We’ve got a little bit of a chip on our shoulder now that we lost a game," said sophomore Breland Almadova, who had two of UH’s 13 hits. "We’ve got to come out and find a way to win the first game and then go from there."
Fresno State built its lead to 7-0 before the Rainbows started to chip away against Bulldogs starter Josh Poytress, who was pulled after five innings.
Pi‘ikea Kitamura and Kolten Wong hit back-to-back RBI singles in the fifth and Almadova’s single scored Sean Montplaisir in the sixth to make it 7-3.
FSU led 8-3 in the eighth when a bases-loaded walk to Kitamura brought up Wong, who came to bat as the tying run.
The Bulldogs brought in closer Charlie Robertson, who suffered both losses against Hawaii this season, to face Hawaii’s All-WAC second baseman.
Wong got ahead 2-1 before flying out deep enough to center to score Jesse Moore. With men on first and second, Robertson got Zack Swasey and Collin Bennett to hit ground balls for outs to end the inning.
"We got after it, and what looked like was going to be a boat race from the first inning was a tight game until the ninth," Trapasso said. "We went out there in the ninth and gave up three and didn’t give ourselves a chance."
Aaron Judge’s RBI double put the Bulldogs up 9-5 and Brennan Gowens put the game out of reach with a two-run double off of reliever Michael Blake.
"We’ve played Hawaii enough to know you have to play all nine innings," Batesole said.
Right-hander Alex Capaul allowed UH to save as much pitching as possible for the weekend, working five innings in relief of Arakawa.
In a season that’s been a struggle for the senior, Capaul allowed one earned run and struck out five to give UH a chance to make a comeback.
"It was one of those situations where you just go in there and do what you can to keep your team in it," Capaul said. "I found the release point for my curveball and went at them mainly with that and my fastball and kept them off balance for the majority of the time I was out there."
Hawaii left 13 runners on base, including 10 over the final five innings.
Wong finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Kitamura drove in two runs and catcher Garrett Champion had two hits and scored twice.
Poytress (7-2) was credited with the win, allowing two runs and nine hits in five innings.
|FRESNO STATE 11, HAWAII 5
E–Weber 2, Kitamura, Capaul. DP–Fresno State 2, Hawaii 2. LOB–Fresno State 10, Hawaii 13. 2B–Gowens, Judge, Van Doornum. HR–Robinson (16), Wise (7). SF–Muno, Wong. SB–Robinson, Wise, Judge, Hutcheson. CS–Wynns.
WP–Haley. HBP–by Capaul (Muno).