On the Road to Omaha
UC Irvine is off to a phenomenal start in the NCAA Corvallis Regional as they defeated UNLV 10-3 in the opening round at Goss Stadium last Friday afternoon, and defeated the number one team in the nation in Oregon, 14-2 Saturday night. Friday’s game marked the Anteater’s eighth Division I NCAA postseason appearance.
The Rebels struck first, scoring two runs in the second inning before the Anteaters responded with two of their own in the third. UC Irvine would break the 2-2 tie with an offensive outburst that would effectively give them the lead for the rest of the game.
With the basis loaded and no outs in the fifth, Chris Rabago would drive in his second run of the game after being hit by a pitch to bring in Adam Alcantara from third base to bring the score to 3-2. Connor Spencer would then deliver a two-run double down left-field to score Evan Cassolato and Taylor Sparks. Jerry McClanahan would cap off the inning with a two-run single to push the lead to 7-2.
UC Irvine continued to build on its lead in the sixth as Kris Paulino tripled and scored on a one-out squeeze bunt by Cassolato to further extend the lead to 8-2. UNLV’s T.J. White scored on a passed ball in the sixth to bring the score back to 8-3, but that would be as close as the Rebels would ever get.
Paulino, upon being hit by a pitch earlier on, would eventually score in the eighth inning off of a single to left by Cassolato to bring the lead to 9-3. Sparks opened the ninth inning would his third hit of the game, and proceeded to score on a sacrifice to left by Spencer, earning his third RBI of the game and bringing the finally tally to a commanding final score of 10-3.
The rout was a much needed confidence boost for the Anteaters, who came into the NCAA baseball tournament off of a six-game losing streak, of which they only scored a total of nine runs.
Senior pitcher Andrew Morales, who recently became the fifth Anteater to earn honors as the 2014 Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year, improves to 10-2 for the season with four strikeouts and three walks. With the victory, the Anteaters are now 14-4 in regional play since 2007 and have won their last five NCAA Regional matches.
The No. 3 Anteaters continued their offensive prowess Saturday as they racked up 14 runs, making their total over their first two games an unprecedented 24 runs.
Against the number one team in the nation, Irvine once again proved that they are in a league of their own right now.
Offensively, Connor Spencer led the ‘Eaters with a perfect three for three outing, including two RBIs.
The Anteaters were able to score in back to back innings, earning the first points on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth, after a wild pitch by Jace Fry gave Spencer the opportunity to score.
At the top of the eighth inning, the Beavers responded with a few runs of their own, coming within four runs 6-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth. However, the Anteaters would not let up, and responded with an eight run inning that was highlighted by Paulino’s grand slam home run that gave Irvine a 14-2 edge going into the final inning.
On the pitching end the Anteaters were led by a strong pitching effort from Elliot Surrey, who finished the game with eight strikeouts and only three hits in his seven innings of play.
Sunday night the Anteaters were at it again in a close battle with the Rebels, but this time the Rebels prevailed with a final score of 4-0. The loss set the stage for a win-or-go home game that took place Monday night.
The Anteaters once again were able to show their pose and composure, breaking a 1-1 tie with a Grant Palmer single in the sixth inning. The Anteaters would keep the lead for the rest of the game, eliminating the Beavers with a final game score of 4-2 and punching their ticket to the Super Regionals.
The ‘Eaters will face Oklahoma State in the Super Regionals.