Freshman Sparks a Pacific Sweep

UCI 5, Pacific 4

 

The Anteaters swept the University of the Pacific this past weekend to improve to 17-9. Irvine managed to steal a tightly contested game at Cicerone Field from the University of the Pacific on Friday night. Freshman Taylor Sparks launched a towering two-run walk-off homer off the foul pole in left field in the bottom of the ninth to win the game 5-4. The victory gives UC Irvine their first conference win of 2012.

“It feels amazing,” Sparks said. “I was just so nervous when I first hit it because I wasn’t sure if it was foul.”

Another freshman got the ball rolling for the ’Eaters, when Connor Spencer scored UCI’s first run in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI ground-out by junior Jeff Stephens. Spencer scored after nailing a triple. Later in the third, with the bases loaded, senior Jordan Fox was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to increase the lead. Spencer then managed to bring senior D.J. Crumlich home on a fielder’s choice.

Sophomore Andrew Thurman took the mound and held the Tigers to one hit in three innings. However, in the top of the fourth, the Tigers made some adjustments to Thurman and punished him with three runs, tying the game.

Senior Nick Hoover took over in the fifth inning, but found himself in trouble in the sixth. Pacific’s Tyler Murphy reached third base on a fielding error. Erik Lockwood, who had a hot night at the plate, smacked his third single to right field to bring Murphy home to give Pacific a 4-3 lead. Hoover escaped the inning with a double play and a fly-out.

After putting runners on first and third with one out, sophomore Jimmy Litchfield replaced Hoover to get out of the jam. Litchfield controlled the damage and held the Tigers hitless for 1.2 innings. Thanks to Sparks’ homerun in the ninth, Litchfield was able to earn the win.

“We were pretty frustrated [coming into the ninth inning]. We were trying to get the guys to stay in it mentally,” Sparks said. “At that point of the game, you just want to slow down and keep fighting.”

“It’s a great feeling, especially after [a] loss to USC. [The win] has helped the morale of the team.”

 

UCI 7, Pacific 4

 

UCI rode Taylor Sparks’ coattails once again on March 31 as the Anteaters won their second game of the weekend series against the University of the Pacific 7-4.

Irvine’s bats were quiet throughout most of the game, being held to a run through seven innings before exploding in the bottom of the eighth.

Senior Crosby Slaught struggled on the mound, surrendering four runs with 81 pitches in five innings of work. With injuries to pitchers junior Matt Whitehouse and Kyle Hooper, UCI has missed their reliable hurlers of late.

The Tigers got on the board first in the second inning thanks to a two-run homerun by Jason Taasaa . The following inning, with a runner on first and third, Riley Drongensen  brought a runner home on a fielding error by Slaught. The following batter hit a soft single to right field to add another run and the Tigers led 4-0.

Irvine finally scored their first run in the bottom of the third after senior Jordan Fox hit an RBI groundout to score sophomore Dillon Moyer.

Sophomore Mitch Merten took the hill in the sixth inning and put a pause on the Tigers’ offense, limiting them to one hit in three innings of work. However, the Irvine offense remained stagnant.

“Our team needs to keep the ball out of the air,” Sparks said of the Anteaters’ tendency to experience hitting droughts. “We need to hit more line drives and find holes. We need more level swings to get those base hits.”

The Anteaters came to life in the bottom of the eighth inning. After senior Tommy Reyes and Jordan Fox reached base with back-to-back singles, the Tigers took Crawford off the mound for Joe Spizzirri. Spizzirri struggled with control. After freshman Connor Spencer hit a fly ball to center field for the second out, junior Scott Gottschling smacked a double to left field, scoring Reyes.

UCI showed solid plate discipline as senior Christian Ramirez drew a walk. Then with two outs, after working the count full, Sparks delivered just as he did the night before. This time it was a two-run single to right field to put UCI up 5-4.

D.J. Crumlich later extended UCI’s lead after hitting a 2-run single of his own on another full count, to make it a 7-4 Anteater advantage.

Junior Race Parmenter pitched in the ninth to secure his third save of the season.

Head coach Mike Gillespie applauded the team’s late inning efforts, but would’ve liked to have seen his team produce earlier in the game.

“We’d like to see it kick in the first inning or the second inning. We got better at bats later in the game than earlier in the game, but better late than never,” Gillespie said.

We got some luck there. I think a big part of the game was that we got a good performance from Merten. The fact that he put a stop to things enables us to play.”

 

UCI 6, Pacific 0

UC Irvine made fools out of the University of Pacific on April 1, completing their sweep with a dominating 6-0 victory. Sophomore Phillip Ferragamo got the nod, throwing a shutout in seven innings with three strikeouts to record the win. Sophomore Jimmy Litchfield pitched two innings of relief, notching four strikeouts and surrendering only one hit. The Anteaters are now 3-0 in the Big West, 17-9 overall.

The Anteaters were able to get a rally started in the first inning, scoring three runs. With runners on second and third, Jordan Fox was able to hit a soft single to left field to bring in Irvine’s first run. Connor Spencer, who went three for four at the plate, followed suit with a single to bring home another. Christian Ramirez, who also hit three for four, capped off a rally with a single to score Irvine’s third run.

Tommy Reyes sparked another rally in the bottom of the sixth inning, connecting on a double to left field to score freshman Chris Rabago from first base. A batter later, Spencer crushed a triple to score Reyes and Ramirez knocked a single to score Spencer. The Anteaters held onto the comfortable 6-0 lead to finish the game.