WAIPAHU, Hawaii — Playing 3,671 miles away from home, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets jumped out to an early advantage in their baseball season opener at NCAA Division II Hawaii Pacific late Friday night, but the lead wouldn't last as the host Sharks rallied for a 7-4 victory.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Hawaii Pacific reeled off five runs in the frame to seize control of the contest. The Sharks added their final run in the bottom of the sixth, while Howard Payne was able to muster just one additional run in the top of the seventh inning.
Howard Payne pitchers Chandler Clark, Ryan Richardson, Johnny Cravey, Ben Schardt and Kory Owen combined to yield seven runs — six earned — on nine hits with four strikeouts and no walks. Clark took the loss, starting and working 3.2 innings.
Defensively, the Yellow Jacket defense committed three errors, while Hawaii Pacific was flawless in the field.
At the plate, Howard Payne generated eight hits — two each from Ty McCain and Nolyn Box, who both drove in a run, a pair of hits from Cliff Lunceford and one hit each from R.J. Roberts and Jacob Rodriguez.
The Yellow Jackets grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as McCain's RBI sacrifice fly plated Lunceford, who singled up the middle. After Hawaii Pacific drew even in the bottom of the second, Howard Payne regained a 2-1 edge in the top of the third as Box doubled down the left field line to drive in McCain, who also doubled. The Yellow Jackets' lead peaked at two runs in the top of the fourth when Noah Payne's RBI sac fly brought home David Groves, who led off the frame with a walk.
The last run of the game for HPU in the seventh inning was an RBI single by Roberts that plated Payne, who was hit by a pitch to start the frame.
Weekend action was scheduled to continue late Saturday with a doubleheader, and the battle of HPUs was set to conclude Sunday with two more games before the Yellow Jackets returned to Brownwood.