While You Were Away
SPORTS: Recounting all of the action that the men’s volleyball and baseball teams faced over spring break.
For most of us Anteaters, spring break means surf, sand and sun — trips home, trips to the water and trips to the city. However, for Irvine’s student-athletes, spring break means games on the road. Men’s volleyball and baseball were just two of the teams traveling this past week in a crowd that included women’s water polo, women’s tennis, men’s golf and men and women’s outdoor track and field.
UCI 1, UCLA 3
On Saturday, March 30, at the Bren Events Center, No. 4 UCLA took No. 2 UCI in four for a 3-1 victory (25-16, 25-16, 19-25, 25-17).
After a 15-day hiatus since their last showdown when the ’Eaters swept USC 3-0, Irvine struggled, hitting a season low .183. UCI falls to a 17-6 overall record and a 14-6 record in the MPSF. Irvine now trails No. 1 BYU, who is 17-3 for the season.
With 12 kills, junior outside hitter Connor Hughes paced the ’Eaters while adding five digs and three block assists. First-year Kyle Russell recorded a career-high five kills and four block assists, while setter Daniel Stork totaled 34 set assists. Libero Michael Brinkley had a team-high 15 digs on the night, and Scott Kevorken and Collin Mehring both added five blocks each.
After scoring five in a row for a 15-8 advantage, UCLA would go on to end the first set at 25-16.
With a 13-13 tie in the second, Irvine gave up four straight points to allow for a 17-13 Bruin advantage. Tapering off at 16 points for a second set in a row, the Bruins took the second at 25-16 again.
In the third, UCI led early on with a 5-1 advantage before the Bruins took a narrow 13-12 lead. The Anteaters answered and took a point advantage at 14-13 and extended it to 18-15 to finish ahead at 25-19.
In what would turn out to be the final set, the Bruins jumped out for an early 8-3 advantage and sent the ’Eaters home on a 25-17 final.
After a late match Sunday afternoon versus UC San Diego at the Bren Events Center, Irvine will host Stanford on Friday, April 5 at 7 p.m. at the Bren.
In the first series in Big West play this season, the Highlanders swept No. 21 Irvine for its first loss in a conference opener since 2006 and its first series loss to Riverside since 2008.
In a series determined by key fielding errors for the ’Eaters, Irvine falls to 16-6 and is 0-3 in conference.
In Thursday night’s opener in Riverside, the two teams were knotted at 3-3 in the seventh inning when Mitch Merten came in to relieve Andrew Thurman, who had just given up a single and a walk.
With one out, Merten induced what should have been an inningending double play to shortstop Chris Rabago. Rabago’s throw was not in time to catch the baserunner at second, and second baseman Grant Palmer threw it in the dirt to first as the ball rolled past first baseman Connor Spencer. The UCR runner scored from second to take the lead and deliver Irvine’s first single-run loss of the season at 4-3.
On Friday, the ’Eaters fell 7-5 to relinquish the series to UCR for the first time in five years. With Whitehouse on the mound, the Highlanders jumped out to a three-run lead in the second, but the ’Eaters answered in the third and tied it at 3-3 on run-scoring singles from Spencer and catcher Ronnie Shaeffer. Jerry McClanahan then delivered an RBI fielder’s choice.
Paulino drove in Schaeffer in the fifth and Rabago came up clutch with a two-out single to score Sparks for a 5-3 advantage.
However, unable to protect the lead, Riverside made it a one-run game in the fifth and would go ahead in the seventh with a two-run advantage that would prove to be enough in the 7-5 finish.
In the series finale on Saturday, Irvine would drop its second one-run loss of the season in the 3-2 final to the Highlanders.
Rabago gave UCI the lead in the sixth inning as he sent one up the middle to score Shaeffer. Riverside tied it in the bottom half and took the lead for good in the eighth.
Both Rabago and Shaeffer went 3-4 on Saturday, and Rabago and Palmer recorded an RBI each.
Irvine faces the USC Trojans on Tuesday evening in Los Angeles.