GOLDEN: UCI baseball averages five more runs than their opponents, and hits .355 at the plate.
Cal 3, UCI 5
One week after sweeping Baylor in their first series of the season, the Anteaters took the home field on Friday, Feb. 22 for a four-game, blue and gold showdown against the California Golden Bears, taking game one 5-3.
UCI ace Andrew Thurman tossed 98 pitches to get through six innings of work, allowing five hits and three earned runs while striking out nine. The junior right-hander showed flashes of dominance throughout the game, but made a few mistakes that cost him his second victory of the season.
Thurman shut down the side in the first two innings, but in the top half of the third, he ran into some trouble. After striking out the first batter of the inning, Thurman walked the next Cal batter on four straight balls. On the ensuing at-bat, Thurman hung a curve ball over the middle of the plate on a 1-2 count that was hammered to right field by Cal’s Brian Celsi. While rounding first, Celsi thought about stretching the single into a double and was picked off by right fielder Scott Gottschling. A single to left field on the next play scored the runner from third and gave Cal a 1-0 lead. Thurman would strike the next batter out and escape the inning with minimal damage.
Sophomore Chris Rabago stroked a leadoff triple to right-centerfield in the bottom half of the third. He would score on a ground-out by senior Jeff Stephens.
Thurman settled down in the fourth, striking out the first two batters before inducing a shallow pop-out for the third out. The Anteater offense provided some much needed run support in the bottom half.
After senior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer led off the inning with a single, sophomore Connor Spencer was hit by a pitch, followed by a bunt single by sophomore Jerry McClanahan to load the bases.
In typical Anteater fashion, freshman Mikey Duarte provided a suicide squeeze bunt that scored Shaeffer from third. Rabago then reached on an error that allowed Spencer to score and put the Anteaters ahead, 3-1.
In the fifth, Thurman made another costly mistake, yielding a lead-off triple that would come in to score on a sacrifice fly on the next at-bat. Protecting a 3-2 lead, Thurman struck out the next two batters to end the inning. Thurman’s chances of picking up a second win of the season were foiled in the seventh after he allowed a single and an RBI-triple that knotted the score up at three apiece.
Thurman was pulled for freshman southpaw Elliot Surrey. Surrey retired two batters before junior Andrew Morales finished the inning with a strikeout, stranding the go-ahead run at third base.
UC Irvine quickly broke the tie in bottom of the seventh. Junior centerfielder Dominique Taylor led off the rally with a single to left. In a well-executed hit-and-run, sophomore Taylor Sparks squeezed a single through the right-side hole as the second baseman attempted to cover the bag. With runners on first and third, Shaeffer lined a single to center, scoring Taylor and sending Sparks to third. Spencer added an insurance run with a sacrifice fly that scored Sparks from third.
Shaeffer maintained his hot-bat. After tying for the team-lead in hits with six and batting .462 in the Anteaters’ first three games, the catcher went 3-5 with a run and the eventual game-winning RBI in the clean-up spot for the Anteaters. UC Irvine combined for 13 hits as a team.
Morales picked up his second victory of the season after pitching a scoreless eighth inning and setting up the save-opportunity for senior Race Parmenter, who shut the door for his second save of the season. As a staff, the Anteaters combined for a season-high 13 strikeouts.
Cal 8, UCI 6
For the first time this season, UC Irvine was defeated on Saturday afternoon, 8-6. In the first of their Saturday double-header, junior lefty Matt Whitehouse took the hill for the Anteaters, allowing four earned runs on four hits, striking out seven in six innings of work. Coming into the game, Whitehouse was a perfect 5-0 in his collegiate career. On Saturday, his perfect streak remained intact, receiving a no-decision.
Catcher Ronnie Shaeffer got the ’Eaters on the board in the second inning, connecting on his first home run of the season: a solo jack off the left field foul pole. The Anteaters took a 3-0 lead into the third inning.
Whitehouse allowed his first runs of the season in the top of the third. Cal tied the game up, 3-3.
“I felt good,” Whitehouse said. “The bottom of the second took forever and I got a little cold sitting. When I went back out for the third, I lost some control and didn’t get my groove back right away.”
He would settle down and toss two scoreless innings before allowing another run in the sixth, giving Cal their first lead of the series. Junior Jimmy Litchfield relieved Whitehouse, throwing two scoreless innings.
With one out in the seventh, Dominique Taylor was hit by a pitch, putting the tying run on first. Shaeffer later lined a single through the right side on a 0-2 count, sending Taylor to third. Connor Spencer then singled to left field, scoring Taylor and tying the game up at four.
The game remained knotted up heading into the ninth. Closer Race Parmenter was summoned in a non-save situation for UCI and had one of his roughest outings of his career. The senior allowed four earned runs on two hits and two walks. Parmenter could only get two outs before being relieved by Sam Moore, who finished off the inning.
Down 8-4 in the ninth, Jeff Stephens lined a double to the left-center gap to lead off. With one out, Sparks reached on a bunt single, advancing Stephens to third. With runners on the corners, Shaeffer grounded out to short, but Stephens scored, cutting the deficit to 8-5.
Spencer then lined a single to score Sparks: 8-6. After cutting Cal’s lead in half, Jerry McClanahan struck out looking to end the game.
UCI scattered 10 hits in the game, compared to Cal’s seven.
Shaeffer finished the game with a team-high three hits and two RBI. Connor Spencer went 2-5 with two RBI, and Rabago was 1-3 with two RBI as well.
Cal 3, UCI 4
In the second game of the double-header, Coach Mike Gillespie called upon Kyle Hooper to take the mound for UCI in his first start of the season. The junior right-hander gave the ’Eaters a much-needed quality start, going 6.1 innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits while striking out five.
Freshman Elliot Surrey replaced Hooper in the top of the seventh inning and provided UCI with 3.1 innings, four strikeouts, three hits and one earned run.
UC Irvine trailed Cal 2-1 in the fifth before tying the game up, 2-2, in the home half of the inning. The game remained tied and was sent to extras. Cal took a 3-2 lead on a sacrifice fly from right fielder Jacob Wark in the top of the 10th. With two outs and runners on the corners, the Anteaters brought in lefty Jimmy Litchfield, who induced an inning-ending ground-out to second base.
Jeff Stephens led off for Irvine in the bottom of the 10th, but was quickly sat down after Cal’s first baseman, Mitchell Kranson, made an impressive sliding catch in foul territory to rob Stephens of another swing.
The next batter, Dominique Taylor, kept the ’Eaters alive, lining a double to right-center. Taylor Sparks then singled to left, sending the tying run to third.
With the game on the line and one out, Ronnie Shaeffer laid down a bunt that was misplayed by the catcher, allowing Taylor to score from third. Tied at three, UCI was still threatening with men on first and second.
Connor Spencer nearly ended the game in walk-off fashion after sending a pitch to left field, but Sparks misread the ball and was tossed out at third.
After a wild pitch, Shaeffer and Spencer advanced to second and third with one out and Jerry McClanahan at the plate. McClanahan walked on four pitches, setting up a force out at any base.
With the bases loaded and one out, Scott Gottschling stepped into the box and took five consecutive pitches from Lowden — three balls and two strikes. The final pitch from Lowden fell off the corner of the strike zone and into the dirt, giving the Anteaters the 4-3 victory on a walk-off walk.
As Gottschling trotted to first base, he was mobbed by teammates, who celebrated their first walk-off win of the season. The Anteaters’ two through seven hitters all finished the game with two hits each. As a team, UC Irvine had 13 hits, but that fourth run was all that mattered.
Cal 1, UCI 9
A seven-run first inning was all the Anteaters needed on Sunday afternoon, coasting to their third win of the four-game series against the Cal Golden Bears. UCI improved to 6-1, while Cal fell to 4-4.
It took three pitchers to get out of the first frame for Cal, who faced 12 Anteaters in the bottom of the first. UCI drew three walks, belted one triple, a double, three singles and reached on an error in the seven-run outburst.
In his first start as an Anteater, junior Andrew Morales tossed 6.1 innings with plenty of run support, allowing six baserunners and one earned run to earn the win. Morales is now 3-0 with a 2.65 earned run average.
At the plate, sophomore third baseman Taylor Sparks stayed hot, going 4-5 with a triple and three RBI. Sparks is now hitting .500 with 18 hits and 11 RBI in the first seven games of the season.
As a team, UCI is hitting an impressive .355 this season while allowing opposing hitters to bat .227.
With Irvine leading 9-0, Cal finally got on the board in the seventh inning. Relievers Phillip Ferragamo, Jimmy Litchfield and Andy Lines then combined for 2.2 scoreless innings to close out the ballgame and the series for the Anteaters.
With one out and a runner on first in the ninth, Lines induced a 4-6-3 double play for the 27th and final out.
Irvine faces Loyola Marymount (3-4) on Feb. 26 for their first road contest of the season, before heading home for another four-game series at Cicerone Field as Portland (2-6) comes to town.