Baseball Finishes Second in Big West
UCI Shuts Out UCR (5-0, Friday)
In what was perhaps the most critical game of his college career, sophomore pitcher Scott Gorgen delivered a performance he’ll never forget.
After pitching a shutout against Cal State Northridge one week earlier, Gorgen extended UC Irvine’s winning streak to a season-high eight games with his second consecutive complete game shutout. The Anteaters cruised to a 5-0 victory behind their ace pitcher. Gorgen struck out a career-high 11 batters, walked two and surrendering just two base hits against the No. 16-ranked UC Riverside Highlanders. His record improved to 10-2 on the season.
The Highlanders’ starting pitcher, James Simmons, considered an ace in his own right, was stellar as well, but given the way Gorgen was dealing, Simmons had to be perfect if Riverside was going to stay afloat.
In the top of the third, junior catcher Aaron Lowenstein and junior third baseman Tyler Vaughn led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Both players advanced to second and third base, respectively, on junior first baseman Taylor Holiday’s sacrifice bunt.
Then sophomore shortstop Ben Orloff grounded out to score Lowenstein. That one run would have been sufficient for Gorgen but senior second baseman Cody Cipriano decided to pad the lead a bit more.
In the eighth inning with the lead just 2-0, Holiday and Orloff led off the frame with a double and single, respectively, setting the table perfectly for UCI’s top slugger.
Simmons offered Cipriano a hanging slider that Cipriano got every ounce of. He crushed it over the left field wall to give UCI a comfortable 5-0 lead, which was more than enough for Gorgen to complete his 133-pitch shutout.
Aside from a harmless double by UCR’s Aaron Wible, Gorgen never allowed an opposing batter to reach second base. At one point, he even went through 14 straight batters before letting anyone reach base. Undoubtedly, Gorgen has been pitching stronger in recent games. With the NCAA Regional playoffs just around the corner, the timing for Gorgen to be peaking couldn’t be better. His shutout performance lowered his earned run average to an impressive 3.06.
Gorgen isn’t the only Anteater surging as of late. Holiday singled, doubled and tripled Friday night, which extended his hitting streak to 15 games. Holiday is among several Anteaters who could very well get scooped up by a Major League team June 6, the day of the amateur draft. His perfect 3-3 night increased his season batting average to .350.
UCR Holds off UCI (4-2, Saturday)
UC Irvine’s tremendous season will certainly get them into the postseason, but it won’t translate into a Big West title.
The No. 16-ranked UC Riverside Highlanders defeated UCI on Saturday 4-2, clinching the Big West Championship.
While UCI pitchers combined to record a season high 13 strikeouts, it was Riverside’s Matt Montgomery who delivered the star pitching performance. Through eight-and-a-third innings of work, the UCR starter allowed just seven hits and no walks to the Anteater offense.
The Anteaters got on the board with a run in the top of the third as junior first baseman Taylor Holiday stole home plate with two outs. However, it wouldn’t be nearly enough as UCR took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning, getting a run on a UCI error and an RBI single from Mark Samuelson.
The fourth inning provided a glimpse of hope for the Anteaters’ offense as they opened up the inning with three consecutive singles. Freshman designated hitter Sean Madigan singled home the tying run for the Anteaters, but the team was unable to take the lead as senior right fielder Brian Peterson was called out at home trying to score on Ollie Linton’s sacrifice fly. The potential big inning ended as Montgomery induced a UCI pop up to short and a grounder to third to get out of the jam.
Perhaps the two most essential aspects of UCI’s eight-game winning streak had been the excellent starting pitching along with flawless defense to back it up. Unfortunately those two fundamentals broke down Saturday.
Starting pitcher Wes Etheridge only lasted two and two-thirds innings after surrendering four hits and two runs.
Senior Dylan Axelrod replaced Etheridge in the third and went on to pitch four and one-thirds innings, striking out seven batters along the way.
In the seventh inning, Axelrod looked as if he was in control, recording the first two outs of the inning. But UCR got four straight hits and scored two runs to break a 2-2 tie and lead 4-2.
UCI had a chance to tie the game in the top of the ninth inning, getting runners on first and second base with just one out, but sophomore center fielder Ollie Linton grounded out and senior pinch hitter Zach Robinson popped out to short to give UCR the 4-2 win.
Given the success UC Riverside has had this season, it would have been quite a feat to sweep the series on the road and take the Big West title. However, claiming the Big West title isn’t necessarily imperative to winning in June. The Anteaters will look forward to an exciting regional playoff series that will determine how long they’ll get to play this summer.
UCI Blasts UCR (16-8, Sunday)
UC Irvine’s offense made a clear statement Sunday