The UC Irvine Anteaters (19-10, 13-3) finished a four-game series and fell by a final score of 5-2 against the UC San Diego Tritons (8-16, 5-7) on April 11. The game, which was held at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark, was the first series that UCI allowed a limited capacity of fans inside the ballpark this 2021 season.
The game started out with junior right-handed pitcher Peter Van Loon (1-2) on the mound for the Anteaters. Van Loon retired UCSD senior designated hitter Everett Lau, who was the first batter, on a one pitch ground out to shortstop. However, junior second baseman Michael Fuhrman singled to left center field.
Van Loon struck out senior left fielder Anthony Lucchetti, but the Anteaters still needed one more out. With a runner on base and two outs, redshirt senior third baseman Blake Baumgartner blasted a double off the left center field wall and Fuhrman scored all the way from first base. Redshirt junior right fielder Tate Soderstrom singled up the middle of the field, which easily allowed Baumgartner to score and give the Tritons a 2-0 lead. The Anteaters stopped the Triton two-out rally by getting redshirt junior catcher Paul Gozzo to ground out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Anteaters looked to get the runs back and were immediately given an opportunity when redshirt freshman right fielder Nathan Church was hit by a pitch. However, UCI failed to advance Church past first base against UCSD senior right-handed pitcher Brandon Weed.
The Tritons threatened to tack on more runs in the second inning as they had two men on base with two outs. Van Loon was able to escape the jam by getting Fuhrman to ground out.
Eventually, the Tritons added another run in the third inning as Gozzo hit an RBI single to plate Lucchetti, 3-0. Baumgartner tried to score from second base but was thrown out at home plate by Church.
The Anteaters faced their biggest deficit of the series down by three runs and needed their own two-out rally to get on the board. Junior center fielder Mike Peabody sparked the much-needed rally after reaching first base on a fielding error, which also advanced freshman third baseman Connor McGuire advanced to second base. Freshman left fielder Luke Spillane saw six pitches before singling to left center field. McGuire came home to score and Peabody tried to add on a second run by rounding third base to make a break towards home. Peabody was thrown out at home plate after a throw from freshman center/right fielder Brock Kleszcz via the cut-off man Fuhrman. The inning ended; however, the run still counted, 3-1.
The next few innings went back and forth. Both teams went to their bullpens and runners were always in scoring position, though neither team capitalized on these opportunities.
The Tritons scored another insurance run in the seventh inning as Baumgartner hit an RBI single down the left field line scoring Fuhrman from second base; this put them up, 4-1. The Anteaters responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the seventh. Church led off the bottom half of the inning with a triple to center field. Peabody singled to left center field and drove in Church. However, the Anteaters were unable to bring home any more runs as the next three Anteaters were struck out by junior right-handed pitcher Michael Mitchell (1-1). This kept the score, 4-2, in favor of the Tritons.
The Tritons added one run during the top of the eighth inning thanks to a Lucchetti double. This was enough for the visitors as senior right-handed pitcher Luke Mattson came in to close the game. He got Spillane to ground into a double play, ending the game in the bottom of the ninth. The Tritons won their first and only game of the four-game series, 5-2. This win crushed the Anteaters’ chance of completing the series sweep.
“We weren’t great hitting [today] and it happens,” UCI head coach Ben Orloff said during the postgame interview. “It’s hard to get hits every night. The biggest takeaway from this week was the pitching. We gave up nine runs in four games. Some of our relievers I thought threw the ball as well as they’ve thrown the ball all year. Some of them haven’t gotten a lot of chances and were good this weekend. That’s a big positive for us going forward.”
The Anteaters travel to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for a four-game series against the Mustangs starting Friday, April 16 with the first pitch at 5 p.m. The live stream of the game can be viewed on Bigwest.tv.
James Huston is a Staff Writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.