UCI Holds off USC (4-3, Tuesday)
The UC Irvine baseball team played far from its potential on Tuesday night but, as they have in most close games this season, the Anteaters came out victorious.
UCI’s 4-3 triumph over USC was a critical win and much needed after losing two out of three to Cal Poly over the weekend.
Defensively, Irvine was erratic. Offensively, they were unspectacular. Nevertheless, an essential trait to all great teams is the ability to win when you’re not at your best, a trait the Anteaters were fortunate enough to exude and one that USC could not.
UCI jumped out to an early lead when senior second baseman Cody Cipriano drilled a ground ball to USC shortstop Grant Green that was too hot to handle. As the ball trickled into the outfield, sophomore Ollie Linton and junior Taylor Holiday came around to score, giving UCI a 2-0 lead.
While USC was clearly hitting the ball better than the Anteaters all night, it was also clear that the Trojans couldn’t put together consecutive hits to drive in enough base runners. UCI didn’t support its own cause by committing four errors but the Trojans managed to capitalize on just one run out of those miscues.
Freshman Cory Hamilton pitched four solid innings and held USC to just one run before turning the ball over to senior Dylan Axelrod, who has been brilliant out of the bullpen in tight games. He tossed three solid innings, allowing one unearned run.
‘Cory keeps growing up and this was a good step for him tonight,’ said UCI Head Coach Dave Serrano. ‘He has great stuff. He just needs to get his pitch count down by throwing more strikes early in the count.’
Hamilton’s start was certainly encouraging. Serrano has struggled to find a reliable third starter to follow Scott Gorgen and Wes Etheridge. Tuesday night, Hamilton showed more than glimpses of promise.
With UCI holding a 3-2 lead, it looked for some much-needed insurance in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Luckily the Anteaters continued to get production from their hottest hitter Ollie Linton. Linton ripped his fourth triple of the season to start the frame, and was later driven in on a sacrifice grounder by sophomore Ben Orloff.
The run proved to be invaluable, as the Trojans did in fact manufacture a third run in the top of the ninth before senior closer Blair Erickson recorded the final two outs for his 11th save of the season.
‘The game is testing us, and we’re finding out how tough we are,’ Serrano said. We’re going to have to get back to playing the kind of baseball we’re used to. Right now we’re doing some uncharacteristic things, on defense, offense and our pitching.’
It’s definitely apparent that the Anteaters aren’t playing tight baseball but perhaps it’s encouraging to see that they can still defeat great clubs nevertheless. They’ve shown they can beat even the best teams when they’re on top of their game; surely it’s only a matter of time until they patch up their fundamentals.