Offense Awakens For UCI
Friday night at Anteater Ballpark ended with another dominant performance by ace Scott Gorgen. Only this time, he notched not only the win for UC Irvine, but also the all-time strikeout record in UCI history.
In the second inning, Gorgen registered his third strikeout of the ball game and his 299th as an Anteater. He eclipsed former UCI pitcher Glenn Swanson, who pitched for the Anteaters from 2002-2006.
“I heard a lot about it throughout the week, it was a little bit in my head … but I’m glad it’s over with. I can’t give enough credit to the guy I passed on the list. Swanson’s a legend here, he’s one of the best teammates I ever played with,” Gorgen said.
While he admitted his command was a little off, it was impossible to tell from his stat line. Gorgen tossed eight innings, allowing an unearned run while striking out nine and surrendering just three hits. He improved to 10-2 on the year and 30-10 in his UCI career, moving him into a tie for third place on the all-time Anteater list for victories.
The high-point of the night for Pacific was when it scored its lone run in the first inning on a passed ball. It took just three batters before UCI tied the game up with an RBI single by Ben Orloff, who went two for four on the day. The Anteaters piled on three more in the frame after Dillon Bell scorched a two-run double down the right field line and Josh Tavelli drove in Bell with a single to right-center.
Eight of the nine UCI starters recorded at least one hit on the evening. Francis Larson and Bell had two hits a piece.
The Tigers were clearly overmatched by Gorgen, and the defense couldn’t help their pitchers in the slightest. They committed five errors which led to six unearned runs.
“We were happy with the extra opportunities we got. We felt fortunate—we’ll take that anytime we can get it,” said Head Coach Mike Gillespie.
Pacific 10 UCI 9
By the end of the seventh inning stretch, the Anteaters were trailing Pacific 8-0. While the final score wasn’t what UCI fans had hoped for, anyone who left early missed the finest comeback of the year.
The Tigers put UCI at an early deficit scoring six runs off starter Bryce Stowell in the first two innings. Stowell settled down and held Pacific scoreless for the next four innings, but the Tigers added two runs to their lead on an RBI walk and a sacrifice fly, giving them a comfortable eight-run lead with nine outs to go.
That’s when things got interesting.
Casey Stevenson led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run to right center field. While it merely brought the Anteaters within seven, it was clearly the spark the offense needed. UCI brought nine men to the plate that inning, scoring an additional three runs on RBI singles by Sean Madigan and Bell. Francis Larson added a sacrifice fly, making the score 8-4 going into the top of the eighth.
However, Pacific added another run on a bloop-single to right center—it would prove to be a crucial security run for the Tigers.
UCI couldn’t get anything going in the eighth. Cole Hathcock threw a scoreless ninth-inning to give the Anteaters one last shot to score five runs and tie the game.
After the first two hitters for UCI made outs to lead off the inning, the game was just one out from ending. Nevertheless, Larson followed with a majestic solo home run to left-center field, putting the Anteaters within a still-distant four runs. However, much like Stevenson’s home run in the seventh, the home run seemed innocuous but it sparked a much needed rally.
With the score at 9-5, Bell followed with his fourth hit of the day. Jeff Cusick reached on a bases-loaded walk, then Stevenson roped his third hit of the game to right-center, bringing Bell home to score: 9-6.
Tavelli prolonged the rally when he chopped a ball to deep third base, not giving the third baseman enough time to throw Tavelli out at first. The infield single loaded the bases and brought the potential game-winning run to the plate—Brock Bardeen.
On the second pitch of the at bat, Bardeen crushed the 1-0 delivery to deep left-center field, just missing the walk off grand slam, but good for a three-run double, tying the game 9-9. The Anteaters had scored five runs with two outs in the ninth to overcome an 8-0 deficit.
Pacific finally induced a fly out to keep the game-winning run at third, sending the game to extra innings.
Closer Eric Pettis came in for the top of the tenth and struck the first two batters out with ease. But he lost the next hitter on a full-count walk. The runner then stole second, putting himself in scoring position with two outs.
With the count 2-2 to Tigers shortstop Adam Ching, Pettis surrendered a single to right field that scored the eventual game-winning run for Pacific.
Down 10-9 with their final three outs, the Anteaters had a glimmer of hope remaining as their meat of the order was due to hit. Orloff grounded off to start the frame, but Larson stayed red-hot, belting a one-out double off the wall in right-center field. It was a couple feet away from tying the game, but it epitomized the day for UCI: it fell just short.
Bell and Tony Asaro flied out to put an anticlimactic ending to an exhilarating game.
UCI 2 Pacific 1
Sophomore Daniel Bibona was fantastic as usual as the Anteaters won the rubber match of the series thanks to the left-hander’s 7.1 inning one-run performance.
Bibona retired the first seven Tigers of the game before getting into a minor jam in the third. With runners on first and third and two outs, Pacific’s John Joines was caught trying to steal home to end the inning. The caught-stealing prevented what could have been another nail-biting extra-inning duel.
The Anteaters got on the board in the second inning on an RBI single by Sean Madigan to score Francis Larson—it was the lone run of support Bibona had to work with until the bottom of the eighth.
Pacific tied the game when number-five hitter Mike McKeever delivered a solo home run to left center, knotting the score at one.
Following two dismal pitching performances by Tiger starters, Sunday starter Tyler Waldron was terrific, retiring 17 of 18 UCI hitters before issuing a walk to Ryan Fisher to lead off the eighth inning. The Anteaters seized the opportunity to advance the runner to second with a sacrifice bunt by Eric Deragisch. Afterward, UCI put Tyler Hoechlin in to pinch run, giving Ollie Linton a chance to bring home the go ahead run.
With one out, Linton roped a double to right center to score Hoechlin for the eventual game-winning run.
Closer Eric Pettis rebounded nicely from Saturday’s loss by slamming the door on the Tigers in the ninth, striking out the side and sealing the series victory for the Anteaters.
UCI reliever Christian Bergman made his first appearance in three weeks in the eighth inning as he recorded two outs and picked up the win, improving his record to 5-2.
Pacific’s starter, Waldron, pitched the complete game but wound up with the loss thanks to his lack of run support. After two very offensive show-downs between the two teams, Sunday’s game unfolded contrary to expectations. Waldron pitched like a Friday night starter but, in the end, Linton’s timely double dropped the Tigers to 11-37 overall, 3-13 in conference.
With the victory, the Anteaters improved to 33-13 overrall and 10-8 in the Big West.
On Tuesday they will play UCLA at Anteater Ballpark at 6:15 p.m. The game will be on Fox Sports Net. They head back on the road for the next four games, playing Loyola Marymount Wednesday night and a three-game series versus UC Davis from Friday through Sunday in a conference matchup.