Coming off a five-game losing streak, UC Irvine baseball attempted to right the ship as they battled Cal Poly at Anteater Ballpark this weekend to open up Big West conference play for the season.
Since the beginning of the year, the bats have considerably cooled for the ‘Eaters, who haven’t put up more than four runs in a game since a March 14th matchup with UCLA.
UCI was able to end the losing streak by taking the Saturday game, but dropped the series to the Mustangs (10-17) and evened their season record to 12-12, 1-2 in conference play.
Runs were at a premium during the Friday’s matchup, and it took 10 innings for the Mustangs to plate the winning score to produce the 3-2 final.
Sophomore Jordan Bocko pitched a stout 6.1 innings for the ‘Eaters, giving up only two earned runs while striking out six and dropped his ERA under four for the year, but he was matched by Cal Poly junior Erich Uelmen who threw six innings of two-run ball himself to keep the game in check.
Freshman Andre Pallante was cruising after taking the mound for UCI in the top of the eighth, but was tagged with the loss despite surrendering a lone hit over three innings. In the top of the tenth, senior shortstop Mikey Duarte could not retire Mustang sophomore Nick Meyer after bobbling a grounder, and the next batter would double to score the go-ahead run.
With the heart of the order due up in the bottom of the frame, Cal Poly senior Michael Clark capped off a scoreless and hitless four-inning stretch by sitting down the 3-4-5 UCI batters in succession.
The ‘Eaters were able to post seven hits throughout the ballgame, but could not come up with timely hits to score runners and left nine on base on the night, including six in scoring position. Their biggest chance came in the bottom of the sixth when a groundout moved freshman Adrian Damla to third and senior Adam Alcantara to second with two outs, but junior pinch hitter Ryan Fitzpatrick could not capitalize and grounded out too short to end the inning.
Only one ‘Eater was able to notch an RBI on the evening; junior Cole Kreuter’s sacrifice fly scored sophomore Matt Reitano in the seventh inning, and Damla was the only player to tally a multi-hit game.
The loss marks the sixth in a row for UCI, matching the longest streak since they dropped the first six on the road to start the 2015 season.
A walk-off rip off the bat of freshman Christian Koss put the ‘Eaters on the right side of a 3-2 decision on Saturday, effectively ending their skid and securing their first win of the year in Big West play.
The scoring woes continued for UCI, but they were able to push across runs when needed and rode solid pitching and defense to survive Cal Poly’s 14 hits throughout the game.
Down 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth, the ‘Eaters were able to rally to tie the score after Koss scored following a Duarte groundout. Senior Evan Cassolato would later come in after a balk, and the 2-2 score would hold up until the ninth.
Alcantara led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to right center, and took second base after a sac bunt. Kreuter and Reitano walked to load the bases, and the freshman Koss came through with a blast over the centerfielder’s head to score Alcantara and give the ‘Eaters their first win since March 19th.
Junior Louis Raymond pitched a gem for UCI despite being peppered for 13 hits, the most allowed by one ‘Eater pitcher since 2010. The Mustangs could only glean two runs over 7.2 innings, as Raymond struck out four and walked none. His Cal Poly counterpart Spencer Howard pitched into the eighth inning as well, going 7.1 innings and only allowing two runs himself.
The bullpens were the difference in the game, as UCI was able to take advantage at the plate in the ninth and senior Calvin Faucher shut down the visitors over 1.1 scoreless innings, giving up a single hit and striking out three.
After ending the six-game skid, the ‘Eaters looked to clinch their first multi-game series on Sunday since taking two of three from then-No. 1 TCU last month.
The rubber match was a back-and-forth affair, which saw the ‘Eaters give up an early 3-0 lead, and ultimately allow Cal Poly to score the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth to clinch the game 6-5 and take the series.
Both teams were quiet until the third inning, when UCI was able to strike first as Alcantara drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the frame to bring in Cassolato to score. Junior Parker Coss padded the lead after delivering a two-out single down the right field line to plate Duarte and junior Keston Hiura.
Cal Poly left the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, but began to find their rhythm at the plate and drove junior starter Chris Vargas from the game after only 3.2 innings.
Freshman Ryan Johnston took over pitching duties for the ‘Eaters over the next three innings, and was on the hook for three runs as the Mustangs hung two on the board in the fifth and another three in the seventh to take a 5-3 lead.
Junior Michael Martin and sophomore Miles Glazier also pitched parts of the seventh and struggled, combining for 0.1 innings and two earned runs.
Hiura opened the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff double, and was later brought in to score by a Coss RBI-single. The ‘Eaters were able to get another one back in the very next inning to level the score 5-5, after Duarte singled in freshman pinch runner Mikey Filia.
Freshman Kaz Akamatsu pitched a perfect eighth inning, as the normally sure-handed Faucher came in to preserve the tie in the ninth. Faucher never quite found his groove and surrendered four hits and one run before escaping the inning.
The ‘Eaters could not replicate the walk-off theatrics of Saturday’s game, and dropped the game 6-5 along with the first conference series. UCI hosts CSU Bakersfield this Tuesday before heading to Eugene to take on Oregon, and avenge their 11-5 loss to the Ducks at the Tony Gwynn Classic earlier this year.