The combination of UC Irvine sophomore pitcher Scott Gorgen’s curve ball and the erratic defense by Nevada paved the way for the Anteaters to dismantle the Wolf Pack 9-1 Friday night. On Saturday, junior pitcher Wes Etheridge followed up with a spectacular performance of his own, tossing eight scoreless innings and leading UCI to a 3-0 victory.
Gorgen is fitting in very nicely as UCI’s frontline starter as he struck out a career-high nine batters in the first game versus Nevada. His poise and command were exceptional throughout the night.
In the top of the third with the game still scoreless, Nevada managed to fill the bases with two walks and a bunt single. The Wolf Pack had its chance to strike first as its cleanup hitter Shaun Kort stepped up. However, Gorgen was up for the challenge, as he made short work of Kort by striking him out on four pitches.
Led by a dominant curve ball, Gorgen’s arsenal of pitches had the Wolf Pack hitters guessing all night. Nevada went down in order in the fourth and fifth inning, with Gorgen striking out four batters.
Gorgen displayed his poise again in the sixth inning as Nevada loaded the bases one more time for designated hitter Mike Hale. Showing no signs of fatigue, Gorgen got ahead in the count by throwing two quick strikes, then finished him off with his devastating curve ball.
‘This was the first time all year I felt great throwing my curve ball,’ Gorgen said, who now has three wins and one loss on the season. ‘I was able to keep the hitters off balance by getting ahead in the count. That’s what leads to success as a pitcher, throwing strikes early in the count.’
It wasn’t just Gorgen that noticed the exceptional movement on his curveball; the fans were expressing their ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ all night. Gorgen was responsible for nine of the 10 strikeouts recorded by UCI pitchers and, as UCI fans know, 10 strikeouts means free French fries from Jack in the Box.
Free food was also provided by freshman designated hitter Sean Madigan, who not only had a career night with four RBIs, but also hit a double. With his double in the second inning, all the fans in attendance received a free double-double coupon from In-N-Out.
Madigan came up clutch all night for the Anteaters. His bases-loaded single in the fifth inning and his two-run single in eighth provided UCI with more than enough runs to come away as the victors.
‘I understand my role in this offense,’ Madigan said. ‘As a freshman I may not play every game, but when we face a right-handed pitcher I generally get a shot as the designated hitter. In my first at bat of the season against Cal, I felt really nervous but since then I’ve relaxed. I know it’s the same game I’ve always been playing and having that mentality has given me good success.’
Defensively for Nevada, it was a very sloppy game. The team committed seven errors, which gave UCI plenty of opportunity to capitalize. Head Coach Dave Serrano was pleased that UCI’s offense didn’t let Nevada get away with its mistakes.
‘When you look up at the score board and see that we won 9-1, it doesn’t seem like it was as close of a game as it was,’ Serrano said. ‘Fortunately we took advantage of all the opportunities that came our way.’
The success of Gorgen will be essential as the schedule becomes more difficult with conference games just ahead. Serrano was encouraged by Gorgen’s stellar outing as well.
‘He pitched with great confidence all night,’ Serrano said. ‘He was attacking every hitter and getting ahead in the count. He’s our Friday night starter and that’s a new role for him but he’s adapting to it nicely.’
The victories from Friday and Saturday boosted UCI to a 7-1 record at home, and 14-5-1 overall. Still, Serrano is holding high aspirations for his club and staying true to his mentality of never being satisfied despite the win.
‘I had a sour taste in my mouth from the loss against San Diego and even from the series at Washington,’ Serrano said. ‘I wasn’t pleased with the way we played. It’s time to get on track because the clock’s ticking and conference games are coming up shortly.’
Perhaps Serrano was even more encouraged by the strong emergence of pitcher Wes Etheridge. In the second game, Etheridge improved his perfect record to 6-0 and it appeared that he has solidified himself as UCI’s Saturday starting pitcher.
Junior right fielder Bryan Petersen provided the spark on offense in game two as he hit UCI’s first home run at Anteater Ballpark. It was a titanic blast that was launched well over the right center field fence in the bottom of the fourth inning. It was Petersen’s second home run of the year.
UCI’s relentless offense has proved it can hang with the best. As for Gorgen and Etheridge, they seem to have developed into a powerful one-two punch. With 19 games already on the books, it seems that the Anteaters should not have any trouble staying on the right track in the Big West Conference.