UC Irvine 2
Going into Tuesday night’s game, the UC Irvine baseball team had just earned the No. 12 national ranking by Baseball America. This is the highest ranking the program has received in the prestigious publication.
A win against the No. 22-ranked Bruins would have brought them close to cracking the top 10. Sadly, for the Anteaters and their fans, that will have to wait.
UCLA edged Irvine 4-2 Tuesday, May 1. It was a score that few would have predicted, especially after the first inning.
Senior pitcher Dylan Axlerod received the start for the Anteaters after having tremendous success in the bullpen. His command was strong early on, allowing just one base runner through the first three innings.
The offense gave Axlerod a very early lead as freshman designated hitter Sean Madigan stroked a double off the top right field fence, scoring two.
With an encouraging 2-0 lead and Axlerod pitching as strongly as he had all year, the Bruins needed to turn the tables fast. And turn them they did.
In the fourth inning, UCLA’s leadoff hitter Jermaine Curtis fell behind in the count 0-2 with two outs in the inning with two runners on base. A strikeout for Axlerod would deplete UCLA of gaining any momentum, but Curtis didn’t go away easily.
After fouling off five pitches and taking one pitch for a ball, Curtis was looking for a slider. He got his pitch and sent Axlerod’s 1-2 pitch high and deep to left field. The ball was just deep enough that UCI left-fielder Dillon Bell could do nothing but watch the ball sail over his head and UCI’s lead slip away.
Much like Saturday’s loss to UC Davis, the Anteaters surrendered a three-run homer that would prove to be the difference in the game.
UCI was stagnant on offense after the first inning. It managed just five hits and two walks after Madigan’s two-run double. Unfortunately, all seven of those base runners were stranded.
The 1,046 fans in attendance certainly did not witness traditional Anteater baseball. UCI’s offensive forte has been putting runners in scoring position. There were no stolen bases, one extra base hit and two sacrifice hits that amounted to nothing.
‘We just got awarded the highest ranking this program I guess has ever had,’ said UCI Head Coach Dave Serrano. ‘Do we expect, because we’re No. 12 now that teams are just going to show up and just think they’re supposed to get beat by us? We haven’t done anything yet.’
When the offense is clicking for the Anteaters, they’re seemingly unbeatable. Lately, however, they’ve struggled to consistently pressure defenses