Rainbows score dramatic walk-off victory
On a windless Friday night, Alex Baeza energized Hawaii’s improbable 7-6 baseball victory over Illinois State. A crowd of 1,671 saw the ’Bows overcome deficits of 4-1, 4-3 and, entering the bottom of the ninth, 6-4.
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On a windless Friday night, Alex Baeza energized Hawaii’s improbable 7-6 baseball victory over Illinois State.
A crowd of 1,671 saw the ’Bows overcome deficits of 4-1, 4-3 and, entering the bottom of the ninth, 6-4.
The ’Bows loaded the bases with two outs, bringing up Baeza, who entered as a replacement for first baseman Eric Ramirez. Baeza ripped a drive to the wall in center to clear the bases and end it.
“That was crazy,” Baeza said. “I was trying to stay focused the whole game. I waited on my shot, trying to help out the team. And I came up with the bases loaded.”
Baeza entered batting .111.
ISU reliever Trevor Cross “threw me a first-pitch fastball,” Baeza said. “It caught the corner. That was not what I was looking for. I was looking to drive something. The second pitch, he hung a slider. I was able to do enough to get it over the center fielder to get the win. It was crazy. I’m still breathing hard. I’m glad I could help out the team. It took everyone today. We had so many pinch hits, so many pinch runs, pitching changes. It was a great overall team win.”
The outcome answered Chayce Ka‘aua’s birthday wishes. Ka‘aua, who turned 23 on Friday, had two hits, sparking two UH rallies.
“It’s the best birthday I had in a while,” Ka‘aua said. “All I wanted was a ‘W’ for my birthday. They made it happen.”
Jordan Libman singled home the go-ahead run in a two-run ninth for the Redbirds.
With the score tied at 4, Nick Zouras hit a drive that bounced off center fielder Dylan Vchulek’s glove for a two-base error. Two outs later, Libman delivered a single to center to score Zouras. Joe Butler followed with a run-scoring double to left-center to extend the lead to 6-4.
But the ’Bows would not be denied.
The ’Bows had rallied from a 4-1 deficit to tie it on Ka‘aua’s two-run single in the seventh and Eric Ramirez’s RBI double in the eighth.
In the UH seventh, Ramirez drew a four-pitch walk against Kyle Pauly, who had replaced starting pitcher Brady Huffman at the start of the inning. Vchulek failed to advance Ramirez when he was called out for interference after the bunted ball ricocheted off his leg.
But Maaki Yamazaki followed with a single to right field. One out later, cleanup hitter Adam Fogel walked to fill the bases. Ka‘aua was summoned to pinch hit for lefty-swinging Logan Pouelsen. Right-hander Rhett Rupshus came in to pitch to against the right-handed hitting Ka’aua, who delivered a two-run single to center.
Collin Braithwaite blasted a three-run homer to left to break a 1-all tie in the sixth inning.
John Rave opened the sixth with a single to center. Owen Miller then grounded a single past Yamazaki at short. Then Braithwaite pulled a Dominic DeMiero pitch over the wall in left field. It was Braithwaite’s third homer of the season. Of his 23 hits this season, nine have been for extra bases.
The ’Bows squandered opportunities against right-hander Brady Huffman, who was making his fifth start. After taking a 1-0 lead on Fogel’s double and Pouelsen’s RBI single, the ’Bows placed runners at first and second with two outs. But Huffman struck out Dustin Demeter on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.
The ’Bows also could not cash in with two runners on base the fifth and sixth innings.