Pitching Lifts Baseball in Series Sweep
UCI Hammers Northridge 9-0 (Friday)
The UC Irvine baseball team continued to build momentum for the postseason as it opened up a three-game series against Northridge on Friday. Sophomore pitcher Scott Gorgen allowed just six base runners as UCI blew away the Matadors 9-0.
It took less than five pitches for the Anteaters to get the one and only run they would need before Gorgen went into cruise control. Junior first baseman Taylor Holiday crushed a triple to deep right center field to lead off the game. On the following pitch, sophomore shortstop Ben Orloff grounded, scoring Holiday and giving the Anteaters their first of nine runs.
While the offense provided Gorgen with plenty of support, the team’s ace would have been just fine with the lone run scored in the first inning. Gorgen gave the Matadors virtually no chance of coming back and pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just four hits and issuing two walks. Northridge never got two runners on base at one time against the powerful right-hander. Gorgen’s shutout performance improved his record to 9-2.
‘Scotty was Scotty tonight,’ said UCI Head Coach Dave Serrano. ‘He established his fastball early and was always ahead of the hitters. He was on. Aside from the game he pitched against Fullerton, it was as good a game he’s pitched all year.’
By the third inning, the Anteaters were up 3-0 after Orloff had two RBI ground outs and senior second baseman Cody Cipriano hit a sacrifice fly to right. In the next inning, however, the Anteaters sealed the deal.
Senior right fielder Bryan Petersen led off with a perfect bunt up the first baseline that went for a single. Freshman designated hitter Jeff Cusick followed with a single to left and then sophomore center fielder Ollie Linton laid down another impeccable bunt to load the bases.
Hitting in the clutch has been the Anteaters forte of late and it was more of the same Friday. Junior catcher Aaron Lowenstein, junior third baseman Tyler Vaughn and Holiday all hit bases-loaded singles, giving UCI a commanding 6-0 lead.
After losing three of its last four games before last weekend’s sweep at Pacific, UCI had hit some turbulence at an inopportune time. However, the victory Friday night has given the Anteaters a win streak to five games and it has enhanced their confidence once again. It was especially nice to see considering this series marks the last home games of the season; the Anteater fans want a bright glimpse of optimism heading into the Regional playoffs.
‘We played Anteater baseball tonight,’ Serrano said. ‘We got our bunts down nicely, were stealing bases and playing fundamentally sound on defense. That’s our style. It was exciting baseball.’
Fundamentally sound defense may have been an understatement. Linton made the catch of the year as he fully-extended in mid-air while diving for a ball towards the center field fence. He drew extraordinary applause as he snatched the ball and crashed to the ground.
‘I didn’t get a good jump on it [and] I didn’t even see it,’ Linton recalled about the play. ‘I just heard Matt [Morris] yelling, ‘back, back, back’. It felt great when the ball was in my glove.’
In addition to his gold glove caliber defense, Linton went 3-3 at the dish, bringing his average to .403.
UCI Slams Northridge 10-0 (Saturday)
Junior pitcher Wes Etheridge was as merciless Saturday as his fellow starter Scott Gorgen was Friday. Etheridge tossed eight shutout innings and allowed only six base runners en route to the UC Irvine baseball teams 10-0 victory over Cal State Northridge on the second day of their three-game series.
UCI’s defense, along with Etheridge’s right arm, refused to allow a run to Northridge for the second straight game. The opposite was true for the defense of the Matadors.
Northridge committed an unsightly six errors, giving UCI no choice but to capitalize on the multitude of miscues. In the bottom of the second, the Anteaters got on the board with a sacrifice fly by sophomore center fielder Ollie Linton. By the end of the third, Northridge had committed three errors, helping UCI jump out to a 5-0 lead.
In the sixth inning, the Anteaters added five more runs on an RBI triple from junior first baseman Taylor Holiday and a one-run double by senior second baseman Cody Cipriano.
To say the least, the Anteaters have made these games as unexciting as possible. But UCI Head Coach Dave Serrano will gladly watch these landslides.
‘These may have been two of the easiest games of the year, but what encouraged me were the circus catches, the highlight reel plays and the great pitching performances. It’s how we play the game that matters, not just the score. Their actions are showing me they’re going for it,’ Serrano said.
The Anteaters could have played their worst game of the season and probably still have come out victorious. It wasn’t the victory that was most encouraging but rather the crispness to their overall game. Holiday made a spectacular diving catch at first base while junior right fielder Bryan Petersen made a full extension grab in right field worthy of Sports Center’s Top Plays.
As the defense continued to play at its highest level, the pitching wasn’t bad either.
Etheridge carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before he settled for a four-hitter over eight innings. Freshman pitcher Christian Bergman tossed a scoreless ninth to seal the sixth Anteater shutout of the season.
‘I’ve been around some great staffs over the years, but I don’t think I’ve had six shutouts in one year,’ Serrano said.
The win lifted UCI to 37-14-1 (12-5 Big West) overall, tying the school record for most Division I wins. The 1980 team posted a 37-25-1 mark.
UCI Finishes Sweep 11-3 (Sunday)
The massacre continued with the UC Irvine baseball team beating Northridge 11-3 on Sunday. Every starter in the Anteater lineup recorded at least one hit while seven of the nine starters had an RBI.
Northridge finally tallied their first two runs of the series in the first inning, but the Anteaters countered immediately with two of their own in the bottom half of the frame. After giving up two runs in the first inning, freshman Eric Pettis took command and pitched shutout ball over his next five innings of work.
The freshman worked a total of six innings, gave up two runs on four hits and one walk.
As was the case in the first two contests, the offensive production was contributed by virtually everyone in the lineup. Junior first baseman Taylor Holiday had two hits and two runs, Sophomore shortstop Ben Orloff went 3-3, raising his season average to .353 and senior second baseman Cody Cipriano had two hits, two runs and two RBI.
UCI will now travel to UC Riverside this weekend in hopes of becoming Big West Champions.