Baseball Drops Two of Three to Big West Leaders (Part 2)
Saturday night proved to be very eventful for the Anteaters. Junior starting pitcher Wes Etheridge returned to his dominant form and senior closer Blair Erickson eclipsed the college baseball saves record as UC Irvine defeated Cal Poly 3-2 in a crucial second game of the series.
In a game that didn’t produce much offense, the pressure was on Etheridge to work his magic. As usual, he did not disappoint.
Through eight innings of work, Etheridge allowed just two runs on eight hits, while issuing no walks. The victory improved his record to a conference-best 9-1.
After coming back down to Earth last week against Cal State Fullerton and finally taking a loss, Etheridge had impeccable control Saturday night, which yielded familiar success.
‘Wes was Wes tonight. He had his usual sinker, change-up attack with real good command of the strike zone. He was able to neutralize a great hitting team,’ said UCI Head Coach Dave Serrano.
It doesn’t matter how tough UCI’s competition is on Saturday; they can expect to win with Etheridge on the mound, especially at Anteater Ballpark where Etheridge is undefeated.
Yet Etheridge doesn’t sense that there is a home field advantage.
‘Statistically, it seems that I pitch better at home, but I have the same comfort level on the road. Pitching is pitching anywhere you are. Maybe there’s some element to pitching at home that helps me, but I feel the same regardless,’ Etheridge said.
The Anteaters weren’t too impressive with their bats Saturday, but the runs they managed to score was enough for Etheridge and Erickson.
Sophomore shortstop Ben Orloff went an impressive three-for-four at the plate while senior left fielder Matt Morris, freshman designated hitter Jeff Cusick and sophomore center fielder Ollie Linton each drove in a run. With his three hits, Orloff raised his average to a team-best .371.
Perhaps it was a blessing that the Anteaters didn’t have a tremendous offensive performance. The one-run lead entering the ninth inning set a suspenseful and exciting stage for senior Blair Erickson to move into first place as the all-time saves leader in college baseball history.
While the game was obviously important for Erickson from a personal standpoint, it was critical that he finished off the Mustangs to even out the series.
With so much at stake, Blair didn’t appear nervous at all. He mowed down Cal Poly in the top of the ninth with two strikeouts and a measly fly-out.
‘Lately I’ve had the tendency to make things interesting, but tonight I had my confidence. I felt better tonight than in any other outing,’ Erickson said.
It was certainly a good night to be feeling better than ever.
With the win Saturday, the Anteaters improved to 25-9-1 overall and 5-3 within their conference. Cal Poly holds the top spot in the conference with a 6-2 record.
Serrano is pleased at how UCI currently stands, but he isn’t satisfied.
‘As of right now, I feel like we’re sitting in a good spot. There isn’t any one dominating team out there. I would take this team against anyone in the nation. But I won’t rest until we’ve clinched something,’ Serrano said.