Scott Gorgen took the mound with the goal of being more relaxed and just trying to have a good time. The result was a return to dominance.
UC Irvine’s ace pitched seven innings, struck out a career-high 14 batters and gave up just two runs in the Anteaters’ 7-2 victory over UC Riverside.
In his last two outings, Gorgen seemed to have returned to earth, surrendering seven runs on 14 hits in 12.1 innings of work. He returned to being relentless toward hitters starting on Friday.
“I kind of wasn’t pitching like myself the last two starts,” Gorgen said. “I just got back to locating the fastball and not trying to throw as hard as I could.
It was easier for Gorgen to have a good time since the offense took pressure off him early on. The offense put six runs on the board by the end of the fourth inning, at which point Gorgen had struck out nine batters.
“I was back to having a good time, back to being me. It wasn’t all the straight-faced, big tough guy stuff. I was just out there having fun,” he said.
After matching his career high of 12 strikeouts twice already this season, Gorgen did himself two better in what was his fourth start where he recorded double-digit strikeouts.
UCR tried to take advantage of a technical difficulty in the sixth inning when one of the lights in right field at Anteater Ballpark went out. The game was stalled for ten minutes before the umpiring crew decided the lighting was sufficient to continue. The Highlanders weren’t cooperative however, they protested the game, citing that it wasn’t safe.
Luckily, the light turned back on less than three outs before the game had resumed. Nevertheless, UCR forced the game to remain under protest.
“The question was whether it safe or unsafe and I personally don’t think there was any issue with safety,” said UCI Coach Mike Gillespie. “The umpires didn’t either. I think to Coach Smith’s credit, it was really about getting Gorgen out of there.”
Once Gorgen did get out of there at the end of the seventh inning, relievers Tom Calahan and Kyle Necke each tossed hitless innings as they secured the win for Gorgen, who improved to 7-2 on the season.
The Anteater fans were especially grateful to Gorgen’s dominance by the fifth inning. With his 10th strikeout, fans in attendance all received a coupon for a free Wienershnitzel chili dog. Gorgen wasn’t the only Anteater supplying the free food. Jeff Cusick supplied fans with free double-double coupons from In-N-Out after he laced an RBI double in the Anteaters’ “double-double” inning.
Ben Orloff was three for three on the night with an RBI double of his own. Francis Larson was three for four with a pair of RBI.
Saturday: UCR 5 UCI 3
UCI dropped the second game of the series on Saturday, as the Highlanders got out to an early lead and never let go.
The Anteaters were held scoreless by Highlander starter Matt Larkins through the first five innings, leaving six stranded, including a bases-loaded situation in the fifth. UCI scored for the first time in the sixth inning after Dillon Bell crossed the plate following a fielding error by UCR.
Anteater starter Bryce Stowell was tagged for four earned runs in 6.2 innings of work. He matched his career-high of nine strikeouts, but the Highlanders were able to scratch out 10 hits on Stowell, who was handed his second loss of the year.
Trailing 5-1, the UCI offense tried urgently to put something together with four outs left. Tony Asaro doubled with two outs in the eighth, and Josh Tavelli drove him home with a single to center field, but the Highlander bullpen halted the rally.
Down three runs with three outs to go, Ollie Linton led off the ninth inning with a triple and scored on an RBI ground out by Cusick. However, it was too late for the Anteaters, who couldn’t rally for two more runs, giving UCR the 5-3 win.
Sunday: UCR 7 UCI 5
The Highlanders scored seven runs in the sixth and seventh innings as UC Riverside left UCI with an upset series victory.
UCI took the 1-0 lead in the third on a solo home run by Bell, his first of the season, but UCR answered with a string of RBI singles in the sixth inning, taking a 3-1 lead.
The Anteaters knotted the score up in the bottom of the frame after an RBI groundout by Cusick and an RBI single by Larson, but the bullpen was unable to keep the score tied in the top half of the seventh.
The Highlanders took a 7-3 lead in the top of the seventh, scoring on an error, a two-run triple and a wild pitch.
The Anteaters cut the lead to two on a sacrifice fly from Cusick and an RBI single from Larson to score Aaron Lowenstein but reliever Rob Waite got the inning-ending groundout to stunt the rally.
UCI reliever Christian Bergman fell to 4-2 after giving up three earned runs on three hits in 1.1 innings. Starter Daniel Bibona yielded two earned runs on six hits in 5.2 innings while closer Eric Pettis struck out three and walked one in two scoreless innings.
Unfortunately, the Anteater defense gave the Highlanders a couple of extra outs. It proved to be the difference in the game as Riverside capitalized on two unearned runs.
The loss drops UCI to 24-9 overall and 6-6 in the Big West competition. It is the first time this season the Anteaters have lost consecutive games.
They will look to rebound at Kansas State this Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to New Mexico for a three-game series beginning Friday.
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