UC Irvine’s men’s baseball team concluded their regular season last Saturday on May 24 in a 1-2 loss to end up with a sweep by Long Beach State. Following Saturday’s loss, the Anteaters now hold an overall record of 35-22 and 15-9 in the Big West.
The game was a closely contested affair throughout, with the Anteaters in control for the first seven evenings. Evan Brock held the Dirtbags to only four hits as he blanked them for the first seven innings. All the while, UC Irvine nursed a one-run lead courtesy of Grant Palmer who scored in the third inning.
Long Beach State would find an opening in the eighth when Brock threw consecutive hits to place runners on second and third. After intentionally walking Ino Patron, Brock would give the mound to Mitch Merten, who quickly surrendered a crucial hit to Richard Prigatano, leading to a two-run double to put Long Beach State ahead by one.
Things would quickly fall apart for the Anteaters in the ninth after a failed hit-and-run by Adam Alcatara and Kris Paulino resulted in Alcantara being tagged out. Long Beach pitcher Ty Provencher would quickly strike out Paulino and pinch-hitter Evan Cassolato to end the game and sweep UC Irvine 3-0.
With the loss, the Anteaters now finish third in the Big West Conference. Coming off two back-to-back series losses against Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton respectively, UC Irvine headed into the series against Long Beach State in the hopes of having a strong finish to their season.
In the opening game, UC Irvine suffered a 3-2 loss Thursday, May 22, at Blair Field. It was a pitcher’s duel between sophomore pitcher Andrew Rohrbach and Andrew Morales, with neither pitcher giving up an earned run until the eighth. The Dirtbags led early in the second thanks to a sacrifice bunt by Zack Domingues to put Michael Hill at third whom drove in to score after a Johnny Bekakis hit a grounder to third. The Anteaters were held scoreless for the first seven innings before the ’Eaters caught a second wind and scored two runs to give UC Irvine the 2-1 advantage. Long Beach State would respond with two-runs of its own in the bottom of the eighth to come away with the win.
Long Beach State would carry the momentum from the first game over to route the Anteaters 10-1 at Blair Field in game two. The loss marked the Anteater’s fifth in a row and dropped the Anteaters to third in the Big West. Sophomore Elliot Surrey’s streak of nine quality starts was snapped, as he struggled throughout the game, giving up six runs on seven hits, bringing his record to 6-4.
Long Beach State’s senior pitcher Josh Frye continued to impress Friday night, as he earned his eighth win of the season in only nine starts.
A ray of hope came for the Irvine when the ’Eaters managed to load the bases, but a strikeout and groundout by Frye quickly squashed any hopes of a comeback.
Long Beach State jumped to an early 3-0 in the bottom of the first. Off of a grounder by Ryan Cooper, Jonathan Munoz would score to close the gap at 1-3. It would be the closest the Anteaters would ever come to reaching for the remainder of the game. The gap only increased as Irvine would struggle offensively and defensively. With the series win, Long Beach State is guaranteed a second place finish in the Big West Conference and a high chance at a coveted NCAA bid.
At the beginning of May, the Anteaters stood at the top of the Big West with a 15-1 record, but have since lost the remainder of their conference games to fall to third and 15-9. As a result of their losing streak, it is unlikely that the Anteaters will receive a post-season bid into the NCAA regional playoffs.