Jaime Martinez did all he could to help UC Irvine win, coming off the bench in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter. With two outs, the senior first baseman was expected simply to keep the inning alive, but he did more than that, smashing the 0-2 pitch over the left field fence in a bases-clearing grand slam.
‘It felt awesome,’ Martinez said after the game. His hit had given the team hope for a late-game rally. A two-run ninth would provide more insurance than the Cal State Fullerton Titans would need.
The game was a sloppy, four-hour affair that resulted in a combined 20 runs, 28 hits, five errors, and a half-hour rain delay as Fullerton (4-3) won 13-7.
UCI (4-4) starting pitcher, junior Justin Cassel, continued his first-inning troubles, allowing six runs in the first inning. His troubles were helped along by fielding miscues as players seemed to have difficulty with the wet playing surface.
‘I felt good,’ Cassel said of his performance, knowing that a lot his runs were just a result of bad luck. ‘Fullerton’s a good hitting team and they came out ready to go in the first inning. It’s a tough one, you know, but we’ll bounce back through the series.’
After the rain tarps were pulled off in the bottom half of the first inning, everyone seemed to calm down, though the game remained sloppy. Cassel threw five more tough innings, giving up only two more earned runs.
‘Cassel’s a little bit snakebit in the first. We’re trying to figure that out. It has been the first three times in a row,’ said UCI Head Coach Dave Serrano in regard to Cassel’s first-inning woes this year. ‘Shoot, if he could fix that, he’ll be rolling. Even in the first inning he was competing. If he stays positive and within himself we’ll get this thing turned around.’
The teams were unevenly matched in experience as eight of the nine starters from Fullerton were on the 2004 team that won the College World Series. On the other hand, the Anteaters had only one starting senior, as more than half the lineup was comprised of underclassmen. But what UCI was lacking in experience, they made up with a never-say-die attitude.
‘I was proud of my team,’ Serrrano said after the game. ‘There are a lot of teams out there that will play Fullerton and give up six in the first, and you have a rain delay, they feel like, ‘Oh, this one’s over,’ but this team didn’t. And it showed a fight.’
The Anteaters spread the contributions around, getting RBIs from sophomores Taylor Holiday and Brock Bardeen as well as another from junior transfer student Zach Robinson.
Both Holiday and Bardeen scored runs and were joined crossing the plate by juniors Chad Lundahl and Josh Tavelli as well as freshman Ben Orloff.
The game was a sentimental one for Serrano who coached at Fullerton before coming to UCI last season. At Fullerton he was the pitching coach, recruiting Fullerton’s starting pitcher Wes Roemer while he was still there.
‘I have a lot of passion for everyone in that program, but my passion is at UCI now,’ Serrano said. ‘I see some guys I helped bring into the program but my ties and loyalties lie here at UCI. I always wish Cal State Fullerton well when they’re not playing us. My commitment is to these young men who wear this uniform. We have a good team. We’re going through some tough times right now, but we’re continuing to grow up each and every day. And, when it’s all said and done, I’ll be happy how this ends at the end of the year.’