UCI Baseball (27-18, 8-7) duked it out against the visiting Oregon Ducks (21-23, 8-13) this past weekend, defending Anteater Park in a pair of close contests Friday and Saturday.
The ‘Eaters warped into lightspeed in the seventh inning on Star Wars night, coming back from an early 1-0 deficit to pick up a 2-1 victory in game one of the weekend series against the Ducks.
Friday’s victory marked yet another major milestone for legendary head coach Mike Gillespie, who collected his 1,150th collegiate win — 387 coming with the ‘Eaters. After 31 years of overseeing division one collegiate baseball, Gillespie is set to retire at the close of this season.
Although Oregon got on the scoreboard first with a homer in the third, redshirt sophomore Konnor Zickefoose answered, blasting his fourth grand slam on the year out far, far toward right center to lock things up in the seventh.
Senior Ryan Fitzpatrick was then walked and would later advance to second on a grounder from grad Nick Anderson. Sophomore Adrian Damla brought Fitzpatrick home on a single — the game-winner.
It was a hard-fought battle on the mound between the starting pitchers. UCI sophomore Andre Pallante and Oregon sophomore Kenyon Yovan both struck out nine hitters a piece in seven innings, each allowing homers to draw the game to a tie, 1-1.
The ‘Eaters’ reserves, however, were excellent the rest of the way as redshirt sophomore Dylan Riddle and redshirt senior Sean Sparling gave up just a single hit among seven hitters to secure the win.
The following day, UCI and Oregon put everything they had into 11 innings of grueling action that had lasted four hours and 40 minutes.
Knotted up nine a piece, sophomore Christian Koss came up with a heroic sacrifice pot-fly that allowed redshirt sophomore Mikey Filia to touch home for the winner.
UCI was down big to start as Oregon got of to a 6-0 run. Zickefoose, however, must have still felt the force from Friday’s game, zipping a goner out to right field for the ‘Eaters first scratch in the second.
In the third, the ‘Eaters inched a little bit further to close in on the deficit. Freshman Jake Palmer flew one high up the center, allowing Reitano, who was at third, to touch home. Then, Koss, on his first connection of the day, doubled up the middle of the diamond to ring in Filia and bring the score to 6-3.
Oregon worked the fourth and tagged home, but the ‘Eaters would answer on their go with Reitano sending one to second to allow Fitzpatrick to come in and make it 7-4.
UCI showed some poise, earning a run to cut the Duck’s lead to two, 7-5, in the fifth. Then, they completely went off in the seventh.
Shutting out the Ducks in the sixth and the seventh, the ‘Eaters went on a roll, starting with a Fitzpatrick single that scored senior Cole Kreuter. Anderson was then sent first after being hit by a pitch and when Damla singled one right up the center, Fitzpatrick made his way around the world to knot the game up 7-7. Redshirt sophomore Ryan Johnston later entered the game to pinch hit for Palmer and was walked, allowing Anderson to make a run for home and snag the ‘Eaters first lead of the day, 8-7.
The Ducks were not dormant for long and after an uneventful eighth inning for both teams, Oregon made a quick two run play to reclaim the advantage, 9-8. UCI, however, answered as Kreuter popped one up high, creating enough of a window for freshman Jacob Castro to return to home.
Down to the 10th and 11th innings, the ‘Eaters and Ducks locked each other down. Anderson, UCI’s seventh pitcher on the evening, would help shut out Oregon in the 10th to secure the dub under his belt while Oregon, who used eight pitchers, allowed a hit in the 10th and the fly ball from Koss that would allow Filia to seal the victory, 10-9, in the 11th.
After rounding out their series against Oregon on Sunday, the ‘Eaters will travel to Cal Poly next weekend (May 11-13) to resume Big West action.