In what started out as a game that they had control of, the UC Irvine Baseball team needed some late game heroics to pull out the victory. Aided by clutch pitching and timely hitting, UCI claimed a 5-4 win over visiting Sacramento State at Anteater Ballpark on Saturday, March 4.
In the second of a three-game series between the Anteaters and the Hornets, UCI rode the hot bats of senior first baseman Jaime Martinez and junior designated hitter Zach Robinson. Each collected two hits and two RBIs apiece, which coupled with a strong start by freshman pitcher Scott Gorgen.
UCI jumped to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Robinson singled in senior left-fielder Gary Dudrey.
With freshman starting pitcher Scott Gorgen commanding the strike zone well in the early innings, the Anteaters appeared to be on their way to an easy victory. Gorgen cruised through the first four innings, keeping goose eggs on the scoreboard. While he did allow a run in the top of the fifth, it was quickly erased with an Anteater run in the bottom of the inning.
Up 3-1 and rolling, the wheels started to come off for Gorgen in the top of the sixth. With a man on, he made the mistake of giving Sacramento State’s Kyle Atrat something to hit, as Atrat took Gorgen deep to right on a two-run game-tying home run that had the Hornet fans on their feet.
‘Coming in, we knew this was a good team,’ said UCI Head Coach Dave Serrano. ‘We gave up too many at bats to think they wouldn’t come back.’
With the game tied and Gorgen out of the game, momentum appeared to be on the side of the Hornets as the Anteaters took their turn in the bottom half of the sixth. But with one out and nobody on, it was a couple of hustle plays that got UCI right back into the game.
Sophomore centerfielder Taylor Holiday beat out a ground ball to the right of the second baseman to give UCI a runner on first. This was followed by a bunt single off the bat of Dudrey that put Holiday into scoring position. After a double steal that put men on second and third, Martinez came through with the clutch at bat, sending a sacrifice fly to center that scored Holiday and returned the lead to the Anteaters.
Just as Serrano had predicted, Sacramento State was not about to roll over and concede the victory. Pushing across their own run in the top of the eight, the Hornets tied the game again on a heartbreaking play as Lowenstein attempted to throw out a base stealer only to watch it slip past sophomore third baseman Tyler Vaughn, allowing the Hornet runner to score.
Having given up a lead for the second time in the game, it would have been understandable if the Anteaters’ spirits were down. Martinez would have none of that.
A pitch struck Dudrey after a single by Holiday, putting a runner in scoring position. Martinez again delivered, sending a line drive single to right that scored Holiday and gave the Anteaters a 5-4 lead.
‘I have to give credit to the guys before me,’ Martinez said. ‘Holiday and Dudrey really set the table. This was a good win for us.’
Somewhat forgotten in all the offensive performances was the steady UCI relief pitching that kept the Anteaters in the game. Coming on to relieve Gorgen, Dylan Axelrod, Kyle Necke and Blair Erickson combined to throw 3.1 innings of relief, giving up only one unearned run. Neck collected his first win and Erickson closed the door on his sixth save of the season.