UCI 11, St. Mary’s 9
Until last weekend, the ’Eaters had won 20 consecutive weekend series matchups — an impressive streak dating back to April 2008. Having lost seven places in the national poll after dropping four of the last five games, including a Tuesday loss to Pepperdine, the ’Eaters looked to rebound with a Friday doubleheader against Saint Mary’s.
Senior righty Christian Bergman started the opener, but lasted just four-plus innings. In the first, Bergman at one point gave up three straight hits, including a two-run single to Saint Mary’s Brendan Kalfus and an RBI double to Patrick Wisdom to put the Gaels up 3-0.
Saint Mary’s senior Friday starter, Brandon Berl, kept the ’Eaters in check until the bottom half of the fourth when left fielder Ryan Fisher led off with a liner over the right field fence. Berl recomposed for two quick outs, but senior center fielder Dillon Bell slashed a single up the middle to start a rally that culminated with a three-run blast by first baseman Jeff Cusick — and a 6-3 Eater lead.
But the pesky Saint Mary’s offense came back. Five straight hits and four runs, including a three-run bomb by Saint Mary’s 1B Troy Channing, spelled the end for Bergman’s night. Freshman Evan Brock came in to relieve, and after giving up a first-pitch single to left, struck out the next batter before inducing a crucial 5-to-3 double play to end the threat.
In the sixth, right fielder Sean Madigan hit an RBI single to center, putting runners on the corners for Cusick’s second three-run bomb of the night — and a lead they would not relinquish.
After three innings of scoreless relief, Brock walked Saint Mary’s catcher Ryan Mulligan to start the ninth, then gave up a towering moon shot to Channing — his second of the night — putting Saint Mary’s to within two. With the tying run at the plate, senior Eric Pettis was summoned from the bullpen and needed only 12 pitches to slam the door to preserve the 11-9 win.
“In that last inning, the ball got away from Brock a little bit, but the fact is, for about three innings there, he kind of kept us in it and gave us a chance,” Head Coach Mike Gillespie said. “That’s the second time he’s done that, so I think, as a freshman, he has stepped up and really earned some important spots for us down the road.”
Brock threw 4-plus innings in relief for the win, giving up two runs on three hits. He improved to 2-0 on the season, while Pettis picked up his first save of the season. The ’Eater top of the order combined to go 8-14 with nine RBI’s, including Jeff Cusick’s 3-5 with six RBIs.
UCI 12, St. Mary’s 8
Game two of UCI Baseball’s doubleheader on Friday night began with a bang.
Before Saint Mary’s starting pitcher, Kyle Barraclough, could record an out in the bottom of the first, the ’Eaters made their way through the batting order and put up nine runs along the way.
Saint Mary’s finally replaced Barraclough with right handed reliever Taylor Reid, who managed to only give up two runs in four and two-thirds strong innings.
“We got seven straight hits in the first inning of [the] game and that’s not common. There were some really good things that happened offensively,” Gillespie said.
After an explosive opening inning the ’Eaters offense slowed down a bit, only mustering runs in the fourth, fifth and eighth.
There was nothing to worry about though, as UCI’s ace Daniel Bibona pitched seven sound innings and only gave up two runs.
“Sort of just had to bear down and attack guys. Make them hit the ball and beat me,” Bibona said.
After 116 pitches and 11 strikeouts, Nick Hoover came in to relieve Bibona for the ’Eaters.
After a smooth eighth inning, UCI brought in freshman relievers Ruben Orozco and Andrew Bynum to pitch the ninth.
Both guys struggled to find any rhythm, surrendering a combined six runs in the top of the ninth. Yet, the game remained out of reach.
“We have some [freshmen] that have given us a mixed bag, but enough to be hopeful,” Gillespie said.
The highlight of the game was Bibona’s strong performance from the mound. Despite having a double-digit lead for a majority of the game, he never let it affect his intensity. The lefty improved to 2-1 on the year.
“I think he gave us a real solid game. I think he himself would say that he will have better days ahead, but still I think he gave us a real solid outing,” Gillespie said.
UCI 2, St. Mary’s 4
UCI was not able to complete the sweep against Saint Mary’s because of a 4-2 loss in ten innings last Saturday afternoon. The loss dropped UCI to 6-5 overall.
UCI starter Eric Pettis pitched a career-high eight innings and struck out five and allowed only one run. In the ninth, redshirt freshman Andy Lines started off the ninth by walking Riley Heinzer. Sophomore Matt Summers entered and retired the next two batters before giving up a game-tying single to Mikey Reynolds.
Gaels masher Troy Channing continued to terrorize the Anteater staff by hitting a two run homer in the top of the 10th off of Summers, giving St. Mary’s the eventual winning runs.
Madigan continued his hot weekend by going 2-5 with an RBI in the game.
UCI will next take on University of San Diego on March 9 at Anteater Ballpark before heading out to Sacramento State for an away series.