HONOLULU – Austin Wobrock's slow-rolling RBI single placed down the third baseline scored the game-winning run for Hawai'i in the bottom of the eighth as the Rainbows upset No. 4 Cal State Fullerton, 4-3, on Friday evening at Les Murakami Stadium.
With the game knotted at 3-3 entering the bottom of the eighth, Fullerton (34-7, 10-3 Big West) reliever Koby Gauna issued a leadoff walk to Connor George before Marc Flores singled through the right side, putting runners on the corners with no outs.
Gauna struck out Andre Deal, but Fullerton looked to the bullpen and Tyler Peitzmeier was called to face Kalei Hanawahine, resulting in a strikeout, as the Rainbows (9-27, 4-9) were down to their final out of the inning. With the go-ahead run 90 feet away, the end of Wobrock's bat on a check swing connected on Peitzmeier's offering, poking a dribbling RBI single up the third base line that the Titan defense failed to field, as George scored the game-winning run.
Gauna (2-1) was charged with the loss after tossing four innings of one-run baseball, holding the Rainbows to just two hits and one walk while striking out two.
Gauna was pitching in relief of Fullerton starter Thomas Eshelman, who allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out one and walking no one in three and 1/3 innings of work - his shortest start of the season.
Hawai'i reliever Lawrence Chew (1-1) mowed down the Titans in order in the top of the ninth to record the win after registering the final out of the top of the eighth as pinch-hitter Greg Velazquez grounded out with runners on first and second.
The Rainbows were in position to win due to the outstanding performance of right-hander Connor Little. In seven and 2/3 innings, Little allowed three runs on eight hits while striking out three and walking two.
Fullerton took a 1-0 lead as Richy Pedroza led off the game with a first-pitch triple to right center, scoring the Titans' first run when Lopez grounded out to second.
An eventful bottom of the third allowed Hawai'i to take a 3-1 advantage as Wobrock led off the frame with a single, moved to second on a passed ball and advanced to third on Tyler Young's single to center, putting runners on the corners with no outs.
Stephen Ventimilia then directed a shot at Pedroza, but the shortstop's throw to second was wide of the bag, as Wobrock scored, Young advanced to third and Ventimilia reached second on the error. Pi'ikea Kitamura's RBI single into right field scored the Rainbows' second run of the game as Young crossed the plate unearned.
Kaeo Aliviado's groundout scored Ventimilia for UH's third run of the inning before Eshelman recovered to coax George into a fly out and struck out Flores.
The Titans pulled within a run, 3-2, as Lopez led off the sixth with a double, and was sacrificed to third before scoring on Michael Lorenzen's sacrifice fly driven to center field.
Fullerton evened the game in similar fashion in the eighth as Austin Kingsolver led off the frame with a single to right. He was sacrificed to second, and advanced to third on Lopez's single to center, placing runners on the corners with one out.
Kingsolver scored the game-tying run as J.D. Davis belted a sacrifice fly into right field.
Lopez, Lorenzen and Kingsolver led the Titans with two hits apiece.
Ventimilia and Wobrock led UH with two hits each.
Game two of this weekend's series is scheduled for a 9:35 p.m. PT first pitch from Les Murakami Stadium on Saturday.
Notes: The Titans have outscored opponents 44-7 in first innings this season…Eshelman's three and 1/3 innings was his shortest outing of the year…Fullerton is 24-3 when scoring first…Fullerton has now blown a one-run lead three times in 2013…the Titans dropped the series opener for the third time this season (March 8 vs. Texas A&M and April 19 at No. 23 Cal Poly).