BASEBALL: UCI heads into their road series at Fullerton after taking two of three from Cal Poly last weekend.
Cal Poly 1, UCI 7
The UC Irvine baseball team took two of three from Cal Poly over the weekend, improving to 31-16 on the season.
On Friday night at Cicerone Field, UCI defeated Cal Poly 7-1 as starter Andrew Thurman hurled his second complete game of the season.
In a key conference matchup, Thurman out-dueled Cal Poly starter Joey Wagman, striking out seven and holding the Mustangs to a run on four hits. On the other hand, Wagman struggled, giving up six runs on 12 hits and striking out three in 6.1 innings. Thurman now improves to a 5-3 record while Wagman suffers his third loss of the year to fall to 10-3.
“Thurman had a great performance tonight,” Taylor Sparks said. “His off-speed was amazing, and he had all the batters off balance. He was just on point tonight. It’s what you expect from him.”
Sparks has been on fire, and his consistency continues to show. He went three-for-five with two runs batted in, including a home run, making it his ninth of the year. Connor Spencer and Scott Gottschling both had a pair of runs batted in. Sparks, Spencer and Chris Rabago each had two runs in the game.
“I felt really confident at the plate,” Sparks said. “I was on time with most of the pitches. I thought the game was slowing down a little bit, which was our main goal. I just felt comfortable up there.”
The Anteaters supported Thurman with an early lead. Rabago led off the first with a double and scored on a one-out grounder to short from Spencer. Sparks then went after the first pitch from Wagman and homered over the left-field fence for a 2-0 Irvine lead.
In the top of the second, the Mustangs would get consecutive one-out doubles from Jimmy Allen and David Armendariz to put Cal Poly on the board and cut UCI’s lead to one.
However, Rabago and Spencer would deliver once again, as Rabago led off the third with a single as Spencer knocked in UCI’s shortstop on a sacrifice fly.
Jeff Stephens put another run on the board for the ’Eaters as he gave the crowd something to cheer about when the senior cleanly stole home.
In the bottom of the seventh with bases loaded, Gottschling would hit a two-run single to give UCI a comfortable 6-1 lead.
Adding Irvine’s final run of the night, Sparks tripled to center off reliever Chase Johnson to drive in Spencer, who reached on a two-out single.
Eight of nine UCI batters posted at least one hit in the victory. “This was clearly our best performance on the offense,” Manager Mike Gillespie said. “Our guys got pitches to hit tonight, and they didn’t miss them. This was the best night we’ve had all year.”
Cal Poly 4, UCI 3
On Saturday, Irvine fought back from a four-run deficit but just fell short in a 4-3 loss to Cal Poly. The Anteaters trailed early after the Mustangs hit a pair of doubles off of Matt Whitehouse in the first to take a 2-0 lead.
Denver Chavez doubled to lead off the game, and Jordan Ellis reached safely on the error by Connor Spencer. Brian Mundell would later drive in both runs with a double.
After the two-run double, Whitehouse started to find his rhythm, retiring the side in order and then shut out the Mustangs through the fifth.
In the sixth, with Ellis at first on a single, Mundell would hit another single to right. Scott Gottschling grabbed the ball and overthrew Spencer, allowing Ellis to score on the error. After Jimmy Allen hit a two-out single, Whitehouse would commit the second error of the inning, throwing the ball wide past Spencer on a pick-off attempt that allowed Mundell to score from second and give Cal Poly a 4-0 lead.
Cal Poly starter Matt Imhof shut out the ’Eaters through the first five innings until the sixth. Dominique Taylor hit a two-out single, stole second and took third on an error by Stewart Elliot. Spencer drew a walk and Taylor Sparks slapped a ball to left field for a double, finally putting Irvine on the board. Ronnie Shaeffer would hit a two-run single, cutting the Mustang lead to one at 4-3.
UCI had another chance in the eighth. Taylor delivered once again with a one-out single and then Sparks was intentionally walked. Shaeffer drew a walk to load the bases with two outs. Gottschling popped up to end the threat. UCI was shut down in order in the ninth to split the series at one game apiece.
Whitehouse dropped to a 4-6 record, giving up four runs on six hits and striking out five in six innings. Imhof climbed to 5-3 after striking out six in seven innings and allowing three runs on four hits.
Taylor led the ’Eaters with two hits and Shaeffer led the team with two RBI. Mundell guided the Mustangs with two hits and two RBI.
Cal Poly 1, UCI 11
The Anteaters blew out the Cal Poly Mustangs 11-1 and clinched the series 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at Cicerone Field.
Andrew Morales struck out a career-high 10 batters in seven shutout innings and held the Mustangs to four hits. He now has a perfect 10-0 record on the season. Bryan Granger fell to a 5-4 record, giving up four runs on three hits in 1.2 innings for Cal Poly.
UCI scored all 11 of their runs in the first four innings.
In the first, Connor Spencer doubled in Chris Rabago and Dominique Taylor to give the ’Eaters an early lead.
Grant Palmer belted a double to left-center field in the second, driving in Kris Paulino from first. Palmer would then score on Taylor’s RBI single. Spencer and third baseman Taylor Sparks came up with back-to-back RBI doubles, extending Irvine’s lead to six.
Rabago slapped a single to center, driving in Jeff Stephens from third in the bottom of the third inning.
Irvine started off the fourth with six straight hits. Ronnie Shaeffer, Scott Gottschling, Stephens and Paulino all picked up an RBI in the hit parade.
Spencer went 3-for-5, leading the ’Eaters with three RBI. Sparks also went 3-for-5 with one RBI.
Mitch Merten pitched the eighth inning, giving up a run on one hit. Race Parmenter set down the ninth in order to seal the deal.
UCI faces USD on Wednesday at Anteater Ballpark for a non-conference matchup. Irvine then travels to Fullerton for a three-game series against the Titans, who are ranked first in the Big West.