The fifth-ranked UC Irvine baseball team traveled to Texas to compete in the Houston College Classic and two of three games.
In the first match-up of the tournament, UCI could not handle top-ranked Texas A&M at Minute Maid Ballpark. The Aggies showed why they are the top team in the nation courtesy of an explosive seven-run sixth-inning that put the game out of reach.
After pitching a gem last week against Hawaii in the season opener, Daniel Bibona came out and showed that he belongs up there with the best. He struck out the first three batters he faced and six total over 5.2 innings. The Aggies collected only one run before the sixth on a wild pitch.
Bibona walked the lead-off batter in the sixth to send the bat of Aggie first baseman Luke Anders to the plate. Anders stepped up and blasted a two-run home run to left field on a 2-2 count. Bibona then walked his second batter of the day, and later surrendered an RBI double to third baseman Caleb Shofner. Although Bibona’s day was done on the mound, his stat sheet kept taking a bruising as he was charged with two more earned runs in the inning. The Aggie bats kept abusing UCI as reliever Matt Dufour gave up three earned runs as well. The disastrous inning was over for the Anteaters, but they could not come back from an 8-2 deficit after the sixth.
The ‘Eaters hung with the best in the nation for eight of the nine innings on Friday, but will need an increased effort from the bats and the bullpen if the Aggies ever roll around the corner again.
“Hats off to Texas – they were just a lot better than we were,” said UCI Head Coach Mike Gillespie.
UCI 13 Houston 7
The UC Irvine bats were awoken on Saturday in the team’s second contest of the Houston College Classic when they defeated the University of Houston 13-7.
Six UCI starters recorded at least one hit in the contest. Red-shirt freshman DJ Crumlich led the team with a 3-4, two RBIs performance. He was a triple short of hitting for the cycle, and his home run in the third inning was his first collegiate bomb.
Catcher Francis Larson continued his torrid hitting with three RBIs in the contest. Seniors Tony Asaro and Ben Orloff added a pair of hits and an RBI each.
Christian Bergman recorded his second win of the season in as many starts, going 5.1 innings with three earned runs and five strikeouts. He located his fastballs extremely well, going well into the high-80s, in addition to using mid-70s changeup and curveball effectively. Brock Bardeen pitched 2.2 innings of relief, giving up four runs on five hits.
However, a two-run shot by Dillion Bell to right field that hit off the foul pole diminished the hopes for a comeback for the Cougars. A perfect ninth inning by Nick Hoover sealed the victory.
Sophomore cougar starting pitcher Ty Stuckey looked promising during the first three innings as he used a low-90s fastball and a mid-70s slider to strike out six ‘Eaters and limit UCI to only one run, which came off Crumlich’s solo shot.
However, UCI broke the game open in the fourth inning with it’s vintage scrappiness. UCI used three hits, a hit-by-pitch, an error, two walks and two wild pitches to build a 6-0 lead and run Stuckey off the mound.
UCI 7 UCLA 4
There was no excuse of home-field advantage for either UC Irvine or UC Los Angeles on Sunday as the fifth-ranked Anteaters beat cross-town foe and ninth-ranked UCLA in each team’s final game at the Houston College Classic.
Senior pitcher Eric Pettis collected his first win of the season on four innings of relief in a 7-4 UCI win over UCLA. In only seven games, Pettis had collected two saves and a win. Pettis was not at his sharpest as he surrendered seven hits and two earned runs on a two-run home run by UCLA left fielder Justin Uribe in the top of the ninth. He only struck out two batters, but kept the game from getting any closer.
The best pitching performance of the night came from sophomore Crosby Slaught. Slaught got the start, pitched 4.2 shut-out innings and struck out four while walking none. Slaught provided an encouraging performance for a shallow pitching staff.
Senior Ben Orloff broke out of a hitting slump by going 2-3 with two runs and two RBIs. Sophomore Ryan Fisher went 3-5 with two RBIs and two doubles. Francis Larson gathered another RBI, his ninth, in seven games which leads the team.
However, the scoreboard told an odd story. UCLA out-hit UCI 13-8, but only managed to score four runs to UCI’s seven. UCLA left 10 runners on base for the game, and committed a whopping five errors.
UCI continued to wreak havoc on defenses by hitting sharp liners and ground balls to the unpolished UCLA defense. The first UCI run came in vintage ‘Eater style off a lead-off hit by pitch, walk, sacrifice bunt and a timely double by Fisher to score DJ Crumlich.
Crumlich would be at it again as he lead off the fifth inning with a double. A UCLA error allowed Eric Deragish to reach first safely, while Orloff slammed a double to score two. Fisher then singled in Orloff after he advanced to third on a throwing error in the previous play. UCI went up 4-0.
After UCLA scored two runs in the top of the sixth, UCI responded with three of its own. With two outs, UCI got the bases loaded on two HBPs and a walk. UCLA then recorded another error as Fisher grounded to third. The bases remained loaded and a run scored as Larson stepped to the plate. Larson didn’t have to do much as he watched a pitch sail to his back, getting him his ninth RBI. On the following at-bat, a wild pitch advanced all runners and scored another. UCI would score three runs on only two hits in the inning.
UCI was up for good, and improved its record to 5-2. UCI will next take on Loyola Marymount University in its home opener on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
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