UC Irvine’s men’s baseball team won its series opener against Cal State Northridge last Friday at Anteater Ballpark, coming away with a final box score of 7-5.
Both teams were scoreless for the first three innings, as the Anteaters were shut out by Brycen Rutherford. The first hit of the evening would belong to the Anteater’s Connor Spencer, who swung with two outs left, in the fourth inning. Spencer would advance to second base off of a base on balls given to teammate Taylor Sparks. Driving a 2-2 pitch out toward left-field, Jerry McClanahan would put the Anteaters on the board with a 2-0 advantage over CSUN.
The Anteaters would experience a short burst of offense in the fifth inning thanks to four back-back-back hits put forth by Grant Palmer and Chris Rabago, which put runners on first and third base and no outs. Spencer landed a triple that allowed two runs for the Anteaters, followed by Sparks who hit a triple of his own to score more runs. With the score resting at 6-0 coming into the sixth inning, it seemed that the win for UC Irvine was all but assured.
However, the Matadors would begin showing signs of life in the seventh inning, as Chester Park would give CSUN their first leadoff hit for the evening. Nicolas Osuna followed up with a one-out hit, and a grounder by Dylan Alexander gave Pak the opportunity to score the first run of the night for CSUN. Michael Livingston would bat for a single down the middle to bring the Matadors to 2-6 with two more innings remaining.
Holding a comfortable 7-2 lead in the ninth, the Anteaters had to withstand a late game surge by the Matadors to take home the victory. Nick Blaser was awarded first base due to catcher’s interference, while his teammates Osuna, Alexander, and Livingston all hit consecutive singles to drive him home and load the bases. The first out of the ninth would come off of a sacrifice fly by Brett Balkan. Now at 4-7, the momentum had shifted to CSUN, and the Matador dug out that had appeared so listless before began coming to life as the players grew more hopeful at their prospects of a comeback.
As the inning dragged on, the shouts of “Put ’em away!” grew louder and more frequent as the Matadors began mounting a comeback that seemed all the more possible by the minute. AB Blanchet would load the bases with a hit to left to allow Alexander to score the third run of the inning for CSUN. However, the Anteaters would finally end the game when Sparks threw to Palmer at second base to put the nail in the coffin.
Jerry McClanahan finished tying a career-high with three RBIs; McClanahan and Connor Spencer alone accounted for five out of the team’s seven runs. Despite having his streak of 31.1 scoreless innings come to an end in the seventh, Andrew Morales is now an impressive 7-0 off the mound this year coming off of Friday’s game.
“Morales pitched really well, and our short stop played spectacular on defense,” said head Coach Mike Gillispie. “All in all it was an important and good win [for us].”
UC Irvine would secure the series the next day with a 5-4 win at Cicerone Field again, but not before fighting off another late-inning rally staged by the Matadors. The Anteaters now hold an overall record of 23-11 and are 7-1 in Big West Conference Play, currently tied for 1st against Cal Poly.