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Speedy Calderon comes through for Hawaii baseball

Apr. 20—In the Manoa mist, Hawaii's fastest baseball player—Naighel Ali 'i Calderon—found a clear path to the plate in a sprint-off 4-3 victory over Cal Poly at Les Murakami Stadium on Friday night.

In the Manoa mist, Hawaii's fastest baseball player—Naighel Ali 'i Calderon—found a clear path to the plate in a sprint-off 4-3 victory over Cal Poly at Les Murakami Stadium on Friday night.

A crowd of 1, 650 saw Calderon make a leaping catch against the right-field wall in the top of the ninth and later score the winning run on Austin Machado's bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.

"Naighel's the story of the game, " UH coach Rich Hill said of the Lanai-reared Calderon. "It's about his perseverance this year, and his character. He hasn't had a lot of opportunities this year. But on a big stage, he comes through with that leadoff hit and the great catch. He's such a great kid and he means so much to this program. I'm so happy for him."

The Rainbow Warriors improved to 21-14 overall and 5-8 in the Big West. The Mustangs (21-15, 11-5 ) fell out of a first-place tie with UC Irvine, which is playing a nonconference series against San Diego State this weekend.

Calderon, who entered as a pinch hitter in the sixth, remained in the game as right fielder Sean Rimmer's replacement. With the score tied at 3 in the ninth, Cal Poly pinch hitter Cam Hoiland hit a drive to deep right. Calderon, who is 5 feet 9, lived up to his "Flyin' Lanaian " handle with a leaping grab.

"I knew the wind was blowing and it was hit pretty high, " Calderon said. "I wanted to put myself in a good position to make that catch. Shout out to Matt (Miura, the center fielder ). He left me know where I was spatially because I had to keep my eyes on the ball. I jumped and caught it at the wall."

In the bottom of the inning, Calderon, who uses his speed in the short game, this time lined a single to right.

"It's been a long time coming, " Calderon said. "I've been working on a few things. Dave (Nakama, the hitting coach ) and Coach (Lindsay ) Meggs have been helping me with my swing, helping me see the ball, hit the ball. It's all on them. They say what I need to do, and I do it."

Jordan Donahue put down a bunt. Pitcher Jaccob Torres fielded it, but threw wildly toward second base. Both runners advanced on Torres' wild pitch. Tanner Sagouspe, who entered with a 2-1 count on DallasJ Duarte, issued an intentional walk to load the bases.

The left-swinging Machado then hit a towering fly to center that outfielder Jake Steels retreated to catch, too far away to challenge the speedy Calderon, who tagged up from third and punctuated the run with a slide.

"I knew if (Machado ) put it up in the air, I had to make sure (Steels ) caught it, and then run it home, " Calderon said.

Machado said : "Thankfully, Naighel and Jordan got on. I wouldn't be (in that situation ) without them. All kudos to them. ... Naighel is one of our fastest guys, probably our fastest. Once I hit in the air, I knew it was 'game over.' (Sagouspe ) threw me two changeups, and he hung one middle, and I tried to put up a fly ball."

The Mustangs took a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning. Joe Yorke hit a leadoff single to left and raced to third on Alejandro Garza's opposite-field double to right. Two outs later, pinch hitter Tate Shimao was walked intentionally to load the bases. Zach Daudet, who struck out in his first at bat to drop his average to.050, then lined a single to center to score Yorke and Garza for a 2-1 lead.

Sebastian Gonzalez's wild pitch allowed Shimao to score from third to make it 3-1.

But the'Bows answered with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Miura walked, went to second on a passed ball and remained there when Ben Zeigler-Namoa blooped a single to center. Both runners advanced on Jake Tsukada's sacrifice—a play that was controversial because it appeared the throw was late to first. Elijah Ickes' ensuing two-run single tied it at 3.

Harrison Bodendorf pitched the first 12 /3 innings for UH, throwing strikes on 20 of 28 pitches and not allowing a three-ball count. Alex Giroux got the next four outs before yielding to Gonzalez to start the fourth. After giving up three runs in the fourth, Gonzalez did not allow a run the next four innings.

"Once I got comfortable, I could do what I do, " Gonzalez said. Pitching coach Keith Zuniga "told me to throw fastballs inside, and that's what I did."

Danny Veloz pitched a scoreless ninth to improve to 5-1.