Indiana Pulls Another Houdini Act

At The Ballpark

Hoosier Magic continued for the third night in a row out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. While gutty, young Hawaii roared back to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, it was the cool, experienced heads of the Hoosiers who took home a third straight win with an 8-5 decision tonight in Manoa.

LINESCORE:
Indiana – 012 020 000 03 – 8  15  0
Hawaii – 010 002 002 00 – 5  11  1

PITCHING
WP: Matt Lloyd, 2-0
LP: Brody Hagel-Pitt, 0-1
Save: none

TOP HITTERS.
Hoosiers:
– Austin Cangelosi, 4-for-5, 3RBI, triple
– Craig Dedelow, 1-for-4, HR, 2BBs
– Logan Sowers, 2-for-5, double, 3runs
– Alex Krupa, 2-for-3, 2BBs

Rainbows:
– Kekai Rios, 3-for-5
– Eric Ramirez, 1-for-2, 2RBI HR

RECORDS:
– Indiana, 9-7-1
– Hawaii, 10-8

Hawaii pinch runner Ethan Lopez is granted a “safe” call by home plate umpire Frank Pflugradt to tie the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth.

 

HOW IT WENT DOWN: 
I keep thinking that these two teams are so evenly matched, and it’s true. In the very least, the one thing that I’m really starting to pick up on is how neither of these teams have any desire whatsoever to quit in their pursuit for a victory. Love the fight in these guys. It’s been on display in full color here at Les Murakami Stadium the entire three days so far.

On Wednesday night, Indiana had to hold on for dear life as the Rainbows rallied to pull within 7-6 in the eighth inning, but could not plate the tying run in the ninth as they lost by the same score.

On Thursday, IU rallied from a 3-1 deficit with a pair of runs in the eighth inning and got the game-winner in the top of the ninth inning for a 4-3 win.

Well this third game here tonight initially didn’t seem like it was going to follow form as Indiana appeared to be very much in control for the first five and a half innings. The Hoosiers built up a 5-1 lead and with starting pitcher Brian Hobbie seemingly on cruise control, I was thinking this would be an IU victory as breezy as the trade winds off the Pacific that take the edge off the humidity here in Oahu in the summer time.

Brian Hobbie pitched well, going 6.0 innings while giving up five hits and three runs, but he couldn’t hold on to get the W.

But Eric Ramirez, whose play as been like a dormant volcano of late due to injuries, suddenly exploded with a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving life to the Rainbows cause. That two-run shot pulled UofH within 5-3 of the Hoosiers. Three innings later, after IU was unable to add to its lead, a two-RBI single from Dylan Vchulek in the bottom of the ninth inning off IU’s capable closer Matt Lloyd knotted the game at 5-5 and ignited the nearly 3,000-plus crowd.

Things would stay tied until the top of the 11th inning where Craig Dedelow, a Pittsburgh Pirate draftee last summer, put a sweet swing on a Brody Hagel-Pitt offering and sent it screaming over the right field wall, putting the Big Red on top for good. Austin Cangelosi would cement things with a two-run triple a couple batters later and that 8-5 cushion would be more than enough as the Hoosiers took a third straight game from homestanding Hawaii.

Evenly matched teams. Not evenly matched play in the clutch.

Indiana leadoff man Alex Krupa (the dude with the beard) got on base four times tonight with a pair of hits (one a triple) and two walks.

 

COACH SPEAK
I actually caught up with both head coaches today. I talked with Hawaii’s head honcho Mike Trapasso about an hour before the game to talk about his program and the big picture of Hawaii baseball. But after the game was done I was able to steal IU head coach Chris Lemonis for a few minutes to get his thoughts on the hard-fought win.

First Coach Lemonis on IU’s win: 
“We’ve had a great couple of days. We came to Hawaii playing well and to have this chance to win the four-game series is huge for us. Early in the season, this is a game we would’ve lost. We had a couple of walk-offs against us in the early going and its taken us a little while to learn how to win these games. But we’re playing a little tougher now, I mean, to give up the lead and still be able to come back and win the game is huge. Us learning how to win a game like this and figuring out our bullpen in the process is a big piece of the puzzle. It says a lot about our toughness.”

Catching up with Coach Trapasso of Hawaii:
I had a few minutes with Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso before today’s game, him always being the gracious guy that he is with his media time and all.

I started with a couple things about his playing days at Oklahoma State under the legendary Gary Ward. Then went on to talk with him about his 2017 team and beyond. Here are the high notes.

– On his most lasting impression from his playing days at Oklahoma State:
“I just remember most walking into the ball park every day and there was a winning culture to the place. I was fortunate enough to go in when they were in a stretch of seven straight years of going to the College World Series. And I remember the confidence of having an off-campus apartment and getting the lease to run out exactly a week after the College World Series ended. That’s how confident we were about going to Omaha every year.”

– On what he learned from playing for Gary Ward and Tom Holliday at OSU:
“it was funny because he actually discouraged me from going into coaching, but I think he does that with everybody. You can sit there and tell a guy to work his tail off and get paid very little for it, especially back in those days. But I still talk to those guys every other week or so. He’s still very influential in a meaningful way to me and my career.”

– On the assessment of the first two games of the series (remember this was before Friday night’s Game Three in the series):
“These two games here (Wednesday and Thursday) have been a hard lesson to learn. In every inning that Indiana has scored – and not to take anything away from them – we have given them a walk or an error to help them out. And to their credit they have cashed in on their opportunities. But we’re still a young team, we’re going to play four freshmen tonight, and we’ve been playing four or five freshmen each time out, particularly against right-handers. So we’ve had a lot of lessons learned already in these games.”

Despite being a late-round draftee last June, Dustin Demeter turned down an offer for 5th-round money in order to come to Hawaii and be the Rainbows’ 2-hole hitter.

– On the assessment of his team so far this season:
“I really like our club. We’re better than we’ve been the last few years and it’s a really good group. They work hard and play well together. In particular, we’ve been pitching really well, that’s been a huge plus. We’ve been really pounding the zone, averaging less than two walks a game. I’m a little concerned with how banged up we’ve been already.  Two of our better bullpen guys have gone down recently. One was Dylan Thomas on Wednesday, tweaked his lower back awkwardly. We’ve also been a little short on lefty arms. A kid named Patrick Martin has a couple of saves for us and came to us on Wednesday and said, ‘Coach, my elbow is sore.’ Our trainer thinks it’s just a ulnar nerve irritation, not a UCL or anything like that. He’s been really really good for us but it will probably keep him out a couple of weeks. Early on we pitched really well, especially our starters.”

– On the success of his pitching staff and their 2.39 ERA (coming into the series with IU).
“As I mentioned, we just really pound the zone. Our walks in the first month were probably less than 30 walks for the first four weekends and I’ve always felt the walks-per-game average is one of the most important statistics in college baseball, particularly in this ball park since it’s a big yard. And we feel like Brendan Hornung, who is our only returnee for the most part, has made a jump. And then Dominic DeMiero and Neil Uskali in particular have been really consistent, changing speeds and pounding the zone. Uskali you saw pitch up in Minnesota and he’s not a big power arm, throwing just mid-to-upper 80s but he’s got a three-pitch mix and when he’s throwing them all for strikes he can throw any pitch in any count. DeMiero has been the same way.”

– On this year’s 37th-ranked recruiting class:
“It’s definitely the best class we’ve had in the past six or seven years mostly because we were able to keep most of these guys from going to the pros. Dustin Demeter, our shortstop is going to be really special, you can see that already. We also had Carter Loewen, a big righty from Canada, who I think is going to be really something special, but he had a labrum problem. So he’s still a few weeks out from coming back. He’s a big, strong kid who we thought might make his way into our weekend rotation this year. Adam Fogel, who played first last night and had a couple of hits, we got really lucky with him because he got hurt his senior year of high school and kind of fell into our lap. And he’s a 6’5, 6’6 guy who can really run and is athletic.”

– On how tough it is to recruit to Hawaii:
“It really is a misconception. All the other college coaches understand how hard it is to recruit here. The good thing is that the initial interest is always there because you always get guys thinking ‘Oh yeah, I wanna go there to play for a few years.’ But the distance always plays a huge part. People think ‘Oh, you’re Hawaii, how hard is it to get kids to come to Hawaii?’ But in the last six to eight years the dynamic of college baseball on the west coast has changed so much, everybody is getting better facilities and being able to make a road trip to school and back in driving distance has become a bigger thing. It has really changed our recruiting philosophy too. We don’t go to all the showcases and go after the power arms. We have to dig a little deeper to find the gems, and we have the last few years. We have made a conscious commitment to go after high school guys for our position players.

 

PICS
A few additional images from tonight’s third game of this four-game set

I like this little pregame ritual for the Rainbows. Here, David Nowortya (#45) gathers his teammates and asks them a trivia question before each game. Tonight’s question was to see if his teammates could name all the Division I programs in the state of Indiana. Despite a few answers like “Chicago State,” “UConn” and “Toledo.” the guys eventually got them all. Fort Wayne was the final bugaboo for them to get.

 

Indiana’s assistant coach Matt Reida tries to skillfully send a fungo-infused pop-up skyward so catcher Jake Methany could snag a foul ball in pregame warmups.

 

Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso and his Rainbow Warriors took a second to give me the “Hang Loose” sign before tonight’s game. Don’tcha just dig their late-70s-like Houston Astros jerseys? Good stuff.

 

Alex Fitchett and Logan Pouelsen give my camera the “demented mad scientist” look as I try to get them in a pregame huddle.

 

“If I let go of his legs, Batman will fly away and go fight crime in this city.” A young Hawaii fans didn’t find any superheroes on the field so he brought one from home. Watch out for the screaming liners there Holmes. That Batman ain’t gonna save you from that.

 

Don’t let the disgruntled face fool you, Jonathan Weeks led the Hawaii offense with three hits tonight.

 

Dugout love. Coach Chris Lemonis gives his Hoosiers a post-game speech after the 8-5 victory. Can’t believe nobody was making a face at me while I took this picture.

 

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