UC Irvine was crushed by Cal State Fullerton’s powerhouse offense in game two in a three-game series on Saturday at Anteater Ballpark. Coming fresh off a disappointing shutout loss, the Anteaters hoped to even out the series and their standing in the Big West. UCI (31-16-1, Big West 8-9) was unable to get past the Titans in game two as they won, 11-1. CSUF continues their series lead, 2-0.
UCI sophomore starting pitcher Chris Nicoll was eager to bolster his impressive 3.00 ERA and 5-3 record; nevertheless, the CSUF bats would not allow it. A leadoff double by Titan sophomore second baseman Justin Turner would be indicative of the outing for Nicoll. Later, a sacrifice bunt found the Anteaters in trouble early in the game against a exceedingly dangerous and potent Titan offense. Fullerton was first on the board with an RBI single by junior first baseman sensation Kurt Suzuki.
Irvine’s hitting woes continued from Friday night’s game into Saturday’s. The UCI offense went in order in the bottom of the first, and would do so nearly the entire night. UCI registered only five hits for the game and scored just one run.
The top of the second proved to be fatal for the struggling squad. A leadoff single by senior catcher P. J. Pilittere would be the start of a long inning for UCI’s pitchers. A double by sophomore shortstop Neil Walton would bring Pilittere to third and put the Anteaters in a precarious no-out situation to start the inning.
Fullerton junior third baseman Ronnie Prettyman added to the mayhem by stroking a single to centerfield and scoring a run. Turner would drive in a run in the next at-bat, smoking a Nicoll fastball to leftfield for a single.
UC Irvine’s Head Coach John Savage sensed that his pitcher was not sharp on the mound and regrettably brought in junior left-hander Glenn Swanson in an attempt to put a stop to CSUF after they scored three runs in less than four outs.
‘After Swanson settled down he pitched well, but this just wasn’t a smart game on our part. We need to play much harder than this to beat a team like Fullerton,’ Savage said.
Despite Swanson’s best efforts, the Titans were hitting the baseball with force and regularity. An intentional walk by Suzuki would load the bases for CSUF. Sophomore left fielder Danny Dorn would sit on a Swanson slider over the heart of the plate in the second to nail a two-RBI single. Four more Titan batters would tack on an additional two runs leaving the score at the end of second inning, 7-0.
‘[The Titans] hit the ball extremely well. We did not provide run support for our pitching and you can’t win ballgames without some bat protection,’ Savage said.
The sole source of offense for the Anteaters came in the bottom of the fifth inning, when sophomore catcher Mark Wagner drove in junior outfielder Jordan Szabo with a double to deep left field.
The Titan offense was not about to stop just because the Anteaters were struggling from the batters box. Pilittere hit a home run in the top of the fifth to increase their lead by the end of the fifth inning, 8-1.
A RBI double by Pilittere in the top of the sixth and RBI’s by Ronnie Prettyman and Suzuki proved fatal to Irvine. CSUF left-handed sophomore pitcher Ricky Romero pitched a complete game.
He allowed no earned runs, but let five hits get past him. Romero stopped the Anteaters from gaining any momentum by pitching seven strikeouts.
Savage knows CSUF is one of the best colleges teams right now and believes his team ‘did not step up to the challenge tonight.’
‘I am thoroughly disappointed,’ Savage said.