The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors snapped the four-year string of dominance by the Fresno State Bulldogs in the WAC Tournament to earn a spot in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Warriors held off a late charge by Fresno State to earn the 9-6 victory in Mesa, Ariz. on Sunday afternoon.
Kolten Wong was named the WAC Tournament MVP as he had an outstanding week finishing the tournament 10-for-18 (.555) with seven RBIs, 10 runs scored and six walks and did not strike out in the tournament. He hit three home runs in the tournament including a pair of critical home runs in the Warriors’ first game against Louisiana Tech, a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth with his team trailing 6-4 and then a two-run shot in his next at bat in the bottom of the tenth with his team trailing 7-6.
Game 11 – #4 Hawai’i 9, #1 Fresno State 6 – Championship Game
The Warriors got the board in the first inning as Jeffrey Van Doornum crushed a ball over 470 feet to dead center over the batter’s eye giving the Warriors a 1-0 lead. Fresno State would take the lead in the top of the second as Jordan Ribera led the inning off with a double. Brennan Gowens followed with a single to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Garrett Weber followed with a single to bring home Ribera tying the game at 1-1. Gowens advanced to third on the single as the Bulldogs still had runners at the corners with nobody out. Trent Garrison then followed with the Bulldogs’ fourth consecutive hit as he drove in Gowens to give Fresno State a 2-1 lead. The Warriors would finally record an out as Kenny Wise grounded into a fielder’s choice. Hawai’i starting pitcher Josh Slaats would get Justin Charles to ground into a double play to end the inning and limit the damage.
Hawai’i would answer in the bottom half of the inning as Fresno State starting pitcher Derek Benny plunked the first two batters he faced in the inning and then walked Sean Maontlaisir on four pitches to load the bases forcing Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole to pull Benny and replace him with Greg Gonzalez. Kevin Macdonald singled to left field off of Gonzalez to drive in a run tying the game at 2-2. Matt Roquemore then grounded out to the second baseman but drove in a run to give Hawai’i a 3-2 lead. The Bulldogs would intentionally walk Kolten Wong to load the bases again and Pi’ikea Kitamura would reach on a fielder’s choice driving in another Warrior run and giving them a 4-2 lead. Jeffrey Van Doornum would then drive in the final run of the inning on a sacrifice fly to center field giving Hawai’i a 5-2 lead. The UH catcher David Freitas would fly out to end the inning as Hawai’i batted around and scored four times while getting just one hit.
Fresno State would trim the Hawai’i lead by one at 5-3 as Danny Muno would lead off the inning with a walk and then later came around to score on a sacrifice fly as he advanced to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a passed ball.
Neither team would score again until the bottom of the sixth with Hawai’i bringing in Sam Spangler for Josh Slaats in the top of the fourth and Fresno State bringing in Sean Bonesteele for Greg Gonzalez in the bottom of the fourth.
Hawai’i would extend their lead to 7-3 as Matt Roquemore singled to lead off the inning followed by a double by Kolten Wong. With runners on first and second with nobody out, Kitamura grounded out to the shortstop scoring Roquemore and advancing Wong to third. After another out, Van Doornum singled to left center scoring Wong and giving Hawai’i a 7-3 lead. Bonesteele would get David Freitas to pop out to the shortstop and was then replaced on the hill by Tom Harlan. Harlan allowed a two out single but got out of the inning getting Collin Bennett to fly out.
Showing the determination that had won them four consecutive tournament titles, Fresno State would score in the top of the seventh as Steve Detwiler would get a pinch hit single with one out. Isaac Vivas would pinch hit for Justin Charles and drew a walk putting runners on first and second with one out and prompting Hawai’i head coach Mike Trapasso to bring in First Team All-WAC reliever Lenny Linksy. Linsky would give up a single to Danny Muno as Muno would advance to second on a fielding error by the UH left fielder and Detwiler would score with Vivas advancing to third. However, Linsky would buckle down and got Dusty Robinson to strike out swinging and ended the inning getting Brandon Coyle to fly out to center.
Fresno State would cut into the lead again in the top of the eighth after the first two Bulldogs were put out, Garrett Weber reached on a fielding error by shortstop Greg Garcia and then Trent Garrison would reach on a fielding error by the usually sure-handed second baseman Kolten Wong. Steve Detwiler then tripled down the right field line scoring both Weber and Garrison and cutting the Hawai’i lead to just one at 7-6. Linksy would get pinch hitter Clay Cederquist to fly out to end the inning but the game would head to the bottom of the eighth much tighter than it had started the inning.
After Kolten Wong flied out to start the bottom of the inning, Fresno State would lift pitcher Tom Harlan and replace him with Taylor Garrison. Pi’ikea Kitamura would single up the middle followed by a Van Doornum single to put runners on first and second with just one out. David Freitas would then single to drive in Kitamura and put runners at the corners with one out. Fresno State would go to the bullpen once again bringing in Josh Poytress to replace Garrison. Poytress would get Garcia to pop out on an infield fly to the shortstop but Collin Bennett would deliver a two-out double to drive in Van Doornum and give give the Warriors a 9-6 lead after Montplaisir ended the inning on a fly out.
Heading to the top of the ninth and Fresno State facing their final three outs, Lenny Linsky would get Danny Muno ground out and then got Dusty Robinson to fly out to center field. Brandon Coyle would get a two-out infield single and Jordan Ribera would double down the right field line putting runners at second and third with two out and bring the tying run to the plate. However, Linsky would get Brennan Gowens to ground out as the hit would ricochet off of the glove of Linsky to shortstop Greg Garcia who fielded the ball and threw over to first base for the final out of the game giving Hawai’i the 2010 WAC Championship and their first appearance in the NCAA Regionals since 2006 and their first WAC title in 18 years (1992).
Derek Benny took the loss for Fresno State as he went just one inning giving up four runs on one hit with one walk and two hit batsmen. Sam Spangler earned the victory going 3.1 innings giving up one run on two hits with one strikeout and two walks and Lenny Linksky earned the save, his league leading 12th as he went 2.2 innings giving up two unearned runs on four hits with two strikeouts.
The Warriors will await their regional destination as it will likely be to one of west coast sites either the UCLA Regional in Los Angeles, Calif., the CS-Fullerton Regional in Fullerton, Calif. or Arizona State Regional just a few miles down the road from Mesa in Tempe, Ariz.
Fresno State ends the season with a 38-25 record and the loss likely ends the Bulldogs’ run of four consecutive NCAA Regional appearances including the 2008 National Championship.