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In the bottom of the eighth inning of the Anteaters’ road game at University of San Diego on April 13, sophomore reliever Matt Summers took the mound with a three-run lead over the Toreros. Irvine seemed to have the game in the bag. Freshman Evan Brock tossed a gem. Brock threw six innings, struck out five and took a perfect game into the fifth inning.
Six outs away from victory, Summers relinquished a two-run home run to USD’s first baseman Victor Sanchez, cutting the lead to 3-2. In need of outs, Head Coach Mike Gillespie brought in senior Kyle Necke in hopes of mitigating USD’s rally.
After a double by Torero outfielder Kevin Muno, second baseman Chris Engell knocked in the tying run off of Necke with an RBI single. Necke then retired the side, shutting down the Toreros in the ninth, forcing extra innings.
Striking out four batters in two perfect innings, sophomore reliever Nick Hoover dominated in the 10th and 11th. In the top of the 12th, senior Jeff Cusick tagged an RBI double, driving in sophomore Jordan Fox and putting the ’Eaters up 4-3. Senior Christian Bergman then toed the mound in the bottom of the 12th. Bergman rolled up a 4-6-3 double-play to end the contest.
Following the clutch win, senior ace Danny Bibona called it “a good way to bounce back” and voiced the importance of the game as a “step in the right direction.”
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Bibona and company then returned home for this past weekend’s homestand against the University of Pacific. The staff’s ace exemplified exactly why he possesses an arm that is considered one of college baseball’s finest.
Entering his Friday night outing, Bibona ranked sixth in the country with 68 strikeouts, while yielding just 13 walks and 21 earned runs in eight season appearances. With one out registered and a 4-2 lead over Pacific in the top of the ninth, Bibona left the hill to a great ovation.
“My arm didn’t feel great tonight,” Bibona said of his performance. “But I toughened up and got the job done.”
Bibona gave up seven hits, one walk and two earned runs. The southpaw also struck out eight batters in 8.1 innings of work. Senior Eric Pettis took the ball with one out in the ninth. Pettis stuck out one and then induced a groundout to finish off his third save of his season.
The ’Eaters didn’t overpower Pacific at the plate by any means on Friday night. However, the lineup played small ball to manufacture four runs.
“Their pitcher threw a good game tonight, but we executed well,” Bibona said of the Anteater offense’s performance after they moved runners along with bunts and hit throughout the night.
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The Anteaters dropped the second game of the series on Saturday afternoon at Cicerone Field. After rendering 5 runs (4 unearned) in a 5.1 inning loss to Cal State Fullerton last weekend, senior starter Christian Bergman failed to go deep in his latest weekend start. Bergman threw just 4.2 innings, giving up 4 runs (one unearned) in his short no-decision outing.
Following an exceptional showcase of small ball in the series opener, the ’Eaters executed poorly on Saturday. The team had 14 hits but left 11 runners on base. Tigers’ pitcher David Rowse was chased from the game in the bottom of the fourth after giving up eight hits and four earned runs in 3.1 innings of work. However, the Anteaters failed to capitalize on their opponents’ struggles on the mound.
The first five hitters in the lineup had multi-hit performances: Sean Madigan (2-5, 1 RBI), Casey Stevenson (3-5), Brian Hernandez (2-4), Cusick (2-5, 1 RBI), and Ronnie Schaeffer (2-5, 1 RBI).
The nine hitter, junior transfer Drew Hillman, crushed his first home run as an Anteater over the left field fence in the bottom of the second. Hillman went 2-3 with a walk and scored 2 runs in the losing effort.
Freshman lefty Ruben Orosco continued to impress. Orosco threw 1.1 innings, giving up just one hit in relief.
Brock suffered his second loss of the season, pushing his record to 2-2. Brock was tagged for two earned runs and only recorded two outs in the seventh, before being lifted from the game.
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Eric Pettis and company could not win the series for UCI on Sunday, as the senior sidewinder gave up nine hits and four earned runs in six innings.
Meanwhile, Tigers starter Jake Hummel gave up ten hits but managed to limit the Anteater offense to only one earned run in 7.1 innings.
Designated hitter Ronnie Shaeffer had the best day at the plate for Irvine, picking up three hits, while shortstop Tommy Reyes had both RBI’s for UCI.
The Anteaters are now 20-13 overall, 5-4 in the Big West.