Following a torching victory over LMU last Tuesday, UC Irvine baseball (14-12) went one for three in their up-and-down weekend series against Hawai’i to close out their spring recess slate at Anteater Park.
The ‘Eaters were magnetized to the ball on Tuesday against LMU, snagging a high scoring 10-2 victory.
Graduate designated hitter Nick Anderson led the offensive surge as he connected on three hits in five at-bats, recording a two-run homer — his first ever for UCI — in the highlight play of the night.
Senior Ryan Fitzpatrick was walked three times and had gone around the diamond three times to score on team-high three runs.
After Fitzpatrick sprinted home on a wild pitch at the bottom of the second to hand the ‘Eaters the first point of the night, LMU drew the game even and snagged the edge during the top of the third on a two-run single.
UCI took the lead right back in a big way as Anderson sent one into the distance — a two run homer that brought freshman center fielder Jake Palmer in for a 3-2 turnaround.
With Anderson’s slam not only energized the dugout, but also kept the fire blazing out on the field as UCI continued the onslaught. Loading the bases on subsequent sequences, the ‘Eaters took full advantage of a balk, a hit by pitch and a number of walks to stamp in three more and extend the lead to four, 6-2.
While action stalled for the ‘Eaters at-bat for the next two innings, UCI’s bullpen iced out LMU, preventing their opposition from sparking an abrupt comeback. In his debut midweek start, junior relieve pitcher Louis Raymond did not allow a single run through three innings while freshman Jake Lachemann struck out six batters in two innings and second-year man Cole Spear took down five of his six outs and allowed just a single walk during his time in action.
To finish off the night, freshman left fielder Brendan Brooks doubled one to left field for an RBI before Fitzpatrick returned the favor and brought Brooks home on his double to make it 8-2. Senior second baseman Cole Kreuter concluded the night with a two run double to advance Fitzpatrick and Anderson to cap it at 10-2.
Contrary to their dominant victory Tuesday, it was a low-scoring, tightly contested contest against Hawai’i Thursday night, as the ‘Eaters worked hard for their runs against the Rainbow Warriors for a national audience on ESPN3.
Despite remaining deadlocked by the end of the fifth inning, the game defining play came to Hawai’i in the seventh — an RBI single that would ultimately close the game at 4-3.
The ‘Eaters attempted to make the most out of their sparring four hits but Hawai’i had amassed 14 connections for the night and seemed long due for a major run — in which they received by the seventh.
After both teams came up dry for three innings, the Rainbow Warriors cracked one into the starry night during the fourth to get on the board first and followed that right up with a two RBI swing to go up 3-0.
UCI’s cold four innings ended as the ‘Eaters answered in the fifth on a Palmer double that allowed senior third baseman Parker Coss to touch home. Brooks followed that with an RBI swing out to right field before a wild pitch brought Palmer home. All of a sudden the game was anew at 3-3.
With neither team making headway in the sixth, the Rainbow Warriors would find their moment by the seventh to down the ‘Eaters 4-3.
UCI avenged their narrow loss on the national stage on the following day with a huge 12-4 win.
Once again, Hawai’i got out on a 3-0 start and looked poised to either run the ‘Eaters out of their own ballpark or perhaps engage in another tight slug out.
Instead, UCI got on the board off a Kreuter RBI single in the fourth. An inning later, freshman center Jacob Castro’s fly ball was botched by the Rainbow Warrior’s second baseman, allowing Anderson and Brooks to score to knot the game, 3-3.
Hawai’i would answer on a RBI single in the sixth but UCI retaliated during the same inning with an RBI single of their own before Brooks doubled one to right center and Palmer gave him the RBI tally and the ‘Eaters their first lead on the night, 5-4, off the same play. Fitzpatrick, looking to keep the party going, smashed a homer high and away in the seventh to extend the lead to two.
It was all ‘Eaters in the eighth as back-to-back singles rung in three runs. Later, a Kreuter double drew Fitzpatrick in as redshirt sophomore pinch hitter Ryan Johnston closed the night with a two RBI single to finalize it, 12-4.
For the tie-breaker Saturday, the Rainbow Warriors got back at the ‘Eaters on a 14-2 win, snagging the season series.
The Rainbow Warriors were hot in the second, punching in five runs for a 5-1 advantage. UCI’s sole point within the first seven innings came on a hit by pitch RBI.
Unlike their last two contests, UCI had no more magic left in the tank to fuel another comeback as Hawai’i made it 10-1, scoring one in the third and two in each of the fourth and fifth innings.
Kreuter earned UCI’s second point on a single to second that brought Fitzpatrick home but Hawai’i clung on to the lead and extended it to 12 by the end of the afternoon, 14-2.