The UC Irvine Baseball team (20-11,14-4) fell 4-3 in the first game of the doubleheader against the Cal Poly Mustangs (17-13, 7-7) at the Cal Poly campus on April 17.
The game started off strong for the Mustangs as redshirt junior pitcher Andrew Alvarez allowed only one hit, a short left field single by Irvine’s junior designated hitter Jake Palmer, through the entire top of the first inning. In doing so, he was able to strike out UCI’s redshirt freshman right fielder Nathan Church and force a flyout from junior center fielder Mike Peabody as well as a groundout by freshman left fielder Luke Spillane.
The Mustangs had immediate success in the first inning as their second batter, redshirt freshman shortstop Brooks Lee, homered to deep left field, putting the Mustangs ahead with an early lead of 1-0.
Still, Anteater freshman left-handed pitcher Nick Pinto held his own throughout the rest of the game, quickly maneuvering out of a jam in the third and sixth innings with two runners on. Through eight innings, he only allowed the Mustangs four more hits.
The score remained 1-0 in favor of the Mustangs until the top of the seventh inning when the Anteaters’ batting got hot. Spillane’s hitting earned him a spot on first base at the top of the seventh inning. Following, Irvine’s junior pinch hitter Dillon Tatum advanced Spillane to second with a single through the left-field line.
The bases became loaded when Irvine redshirt sophomore second baseman Jake Cosgrove reached first, on a throwing error by Mustang redshirt sophomore catcher Collin Villegas. Mustangs pitcher Alvarez fought back with strikeouts on each of the next two Anteater batters: junior shortstop Taishi Nakawake and freshman third baseman Connor McGuire.
Freshman catcher Thomas McCaffrey was up next, with bases still loaded. On a 2-2 count, McCaffrey smashed a single to second base. Both Spillane and freshman pinch runner Caden Kendle scored on a wild throw from Mustang redshirt freshman second baseman Nick Marinconz. Unfortunately, the Anteaters were unable to put any more runs on the board. Palmer grounded out to end the inning with the Anteaters leading 2-1.
The Mustangs couldn’t put up any runs in the bottom of the seventh, allowing the Anteaters to end the top of the eighth holding onto their small 2-1 lead. First, Church led off for the Anteaters, striking out on a 3-2 pitch. Next, Peabody singled down the middle, putting the Anteaters with one man on and one out.
Spillane then struck out, bringing senior first baseman Adrian Damla’s outs to two. Then, in a wild sequence, Peabody stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by Mustang catcher Villegas. Damla then singled to third base, putting the Anteaters up 3-1. To end the inning, Caden Kendle grounded out, keeping the Anteaters at their 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth.
The game remained 3-1 in favor of UCI heading into the bottom of the ninth. The Anteaters found themselves one out away from victory as the Mustangs’ designated hitter, redshirt junior Matt Lopez, flew out to center field. Following was redshirt junior right fielder Nick DiCarlo, who landed himself on first base. With one man on second and two outs, the Mustangs called on redshirt sophomore infielder Taison Corio to pinch hit for Collin Villegas.
The game appeared to be coming to an end as Corio fired a ground ball to McGuire. However, the game was extended off of a wild throw, which advanced Corio to third base and scored redshirt junior infielder Tate Samuelson a home run, making the score 3-2 in favor of the Anteaters.
The next batter up for the Mustangs was freshman pinch hitter Sam Biller, who was walked on a high 3-2 pitch from Irvine’s Pinto. The following batter was Mustang first baseman Joe Yorke, who loaded the bases.Then, UCI freshman pitcher Jacob King was summoned from the Anteater bullpen to close out the game.
However, the game took an unexpected turn when the Mustang’s Corio scored on a wild pitch from King, tying up the score at 3-3. Mustang’s Marinconz was the next batter up, who singled to left field, scoring Biller and effectively ending the game.
The game concluded with a Mustang walk-off single that had Irvine down by one with a score of 4-3, giving Cal Poly the victory. After the match, UCI head coach Ben Orloff gave some comments.
“It’s a devastating loss,” Orloff said. “For us to say anything less would be downplaying it. Pinto was great, as good as he can pitch. We did enough offensively to put us in a position to win –– just didn’t get the last out.”
The Anteaters came back and took Game 2 of the doubleheader, 4-1.
James Huston is a staff writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.