The UC Irvine Baseball team continued its three-game baseball series against the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Feb. 28 at Anteater Ballpark. Coming off a fresh come-from-behind win the night before, the Anteaters were eager to improve their already impressive 7-2-1 record and move up on the Associated Press College Baseball poll where they are currently ranked 30th in the nation. And they may have accomplished both feats as they beat the Bulldogs 11-4 on Feb. 29. The Anteaters capitalized on the Bulldogs’ recent struggles on the road, where they are winless so far this season.
UCI junior left-handed starter Glenn Swanson picked up his second win of the season as he gave up two earned runs on five hits in 6.1 innings pitched.
Fortunately for Irvine (8-2-1) and Swanson, the Irvine bats had yet another immense performance, driving in 11 runs throughout the game. Several crucial bases loaded- doubles and singles cleared the way to the stylish seven-point margin victory.
‘I thought Erik Johnson had some huge hits. Glenn Swanson really battled for us on the mound,’ Savage said. ‘It’s nice to see him get a win like this because last year, we really didn’t give him any run support.’
Swanson started off the game uncharacteristically shaky, giving up two hits and two runs in the top of the first inning. After a base hit by Bulldog lead-off hitter junior second baseman Mike Rundle, a walk of senior shortstop Brad Welker and a sacrifice fly by sophomore catcher Kiel Thibault, Gonzaga took an early 1-0 lead. A base hit up the gap by senior outfielder Marshall Bratton brought the Bulldogs up by two before the Anteaters even had a chance to hit.
In the bottom of the first, the fearless Anteaters answered back. Gonzaga standout senior pitcher Ed Clelland left a change-up a little too long for Irvine senior infielder Matt Fisher who tagged in a double, scoring junior infielder Brett Dalton, to put the score at 2-1 in favor of the Bulldogs.
Swanson’s pitching continued to falter in the bottom of the third. After hitting and walking consecutive batters, Bulldog junior outfielder Jeff Culpepper batted a ball to right center field, resulting in a base hit and another run scored. The score would remain at 3-1 for only one additional inning, however.
In the bottom of the fourth, sophomore outfielder Erik Johnson hit a double, putting him in a perfect position to score. Sophomore infielder Kyle Ryckebosch hit a shot to left center field, easily scoring Johnson and putting the Anteaters down by only one run going into the fifth inning, 3-2.
After Swanson blanked the Bulldogs in the next inning after finally finding the corners with his wicked curveball, the Anteaters took to the plate with violent ferocity.
A base hit by Fisher and a resulting error put him at second plate and looking to find home. Sophomore Anteater infielder Matt Anderson answered his prayers with a single over the outstretched arms of the Bulldog second baseman. A double by sophomore catcher Mark Wagner scored Anderson and put UCI in the lead, 4-3.
After a stellar late inning performance by Swanson, he was replaced by Anteater junior closer Micheal Koehler who shut down the Bulldogs in the top of the seventh. In the bottom of the inning, Wagner doubled into center field, setting up yet another Johnson base hit. When Wagner rounded home, the Anteaters found themselves up by three runs, 5-2.
‘I think this team has so much heart and it’s a team that can come back and win close games,’ Savage said. ‘We are very excited about the make-up and the character of this team and these players.’