The UC Irvine Anteaters (26-13, 18-5) played their division rivals, the Long Beach Dirtbags (13-13, 11-12), in a Big West doubleheader at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark on Saturday, May 1. The Anteaters, known for winning in a dominant fashion, suffered a humiliating loss in the first of two games losing 13-4. In game two, UCI defeated LBSU in a close game, 3-2.
Game 1: Long Beach 13 – UCI 4
Right from the bat, Irvine struggled against Long Beach with two early mistakes that began with mishandled catches by freshman left fielder, Luke Spillane, who fell and dropped the ball. Spillane’s fall spiraled into an endless series of bad plays by UCI. At the forefront of these messy mishaps were Irvine’s pitchers.
Freshman pitcher Nick Pinto, who only played 1.1 innings, let the Dirtbags score a total of six times halfway through the second inning. This included a three-run home run made by LBSU’s redshirt freshman designated hitter, Charlie Loust. Alongside him was senior right fielder, Calvin Estrada, who proved himself to be a living nightmare for UCI.
Additionally, redshirt freshman infielder Charlie Loust earned five at-bats, two runs, three hits and six RBI’s for the Dirtbags. Five out of those six RBI’s came within the first two innings. Meanwhile, senior outfielder Calvin Estrada had six at-bats, four runs, four hits and an RBI. It was obvious that Long Beach had this game in the bag.
In an attempt to get back lost points, UCI’s Pinto was rightfully replaced by sophomore pitcher Troy Wentworth after a 6-0 start in the top of the second inning. However, this desperate lineup change was futile. Wentworth handed his first pitch to LBSU’s freshman first baseman, Isaac Ramirez, who secured a home run with two others in the field. This devastating play by the Dirtbags increased their lead to 9-0 as Anteater heads hung low.
In the bottom of the second inning, UCI was finally able to put up a point thanks to Spillane who gave Irvine a total one run and one hit going into the third inning. Meanwhile, Long Beach had nine runs, 10 hits and one error.
Estrada continued to rack up points for Long Beach in the third inning as he made his mark with a three for three and ran straight for second base. On the ‘Eaters side, Wentworth continued to struggle as he walked Ramirez to first and allowed Estrada to score off a wild pitch.
Contrasting UCI’s pitching issues, Long Beach sophomore pitcher, Alfredo Ruiz, had an astounding game. Ruiz played until the bottom seventh inning. His third inning was most impressive, where he had a quick 1-2-3 inning. Ruiz had a total of 109 pitches and five strikeouts before subbing out for freshman pitcher Jake Rons.
The scoreboard remained the same until the top of the fifth where Estrada once again scored for the Dirtbags and made his case for the player of the game. Despite Irvine’s evident struggle, they still had two players who shined a little brighter than the rest.
The first was freshman catcher Thomas McCaffrey who was a nuisance to Long Beach and cost them their second error of the game in the bottom fifth. Overall, McCaffrey had four at-bats, one run and two hits.
The other bright light for UCI was junior pitcher Michael Stanford, who held his own against the Dirtbags’ dominant offense and was the only pitcher able to prevent LBSU from scoring. Unfortunately, Stanford was the fifth and last pitcher for Irvine and only played from the eighth inning.
The game ended when Long Beach’s Rons struck out redshirt freshman right fielder, Nathan Church. Long Beach tied the series one-to-one with a 13-4 victory and prepared to continue their dominating performance in the second game of the evening.
Game 2: UCI 3 – Long Beach 2
With only a 40-minute separation between game one and two, it appeared that the second game of the evening was going to be no different. However, unlike the first match, UCI started redshirt sophomore pitcher Michael Frias.
Starting strong, Frias struck out redshirt freshman center fielder Connor Kokx. Nerves hit when Long Beach’s Estrada, who was the star performer last game, walked to first base. Though Frias regained some confidence after he struck out freshman third baseman, Jonathon Long.
Then, in a hindering mistake, Frias gave up two runs to Loust and also sophomore first baseman Chase Luttrell. Both Long Beach players scored a point giving their team a 2-0 lead.
The tides changed for Irvine after Ramirez began to struggle as UCI’s first batter of game two, junior designated hitter Jake Palmer, ran to first base. Church continued the trend as he hit a single to the side and Palmer advanced to second.
Following their run was junior center fielder Mike Peabody, who did not disappoint as his connection with the bat proved far out-of-reach for Long Beach’s defense. He was the first to load UCI’s base this game.
Taking advantage of LBSU’s pitching issues, Spillane ran for first allowing the base to be loaded again. This run increased the score, 2-1, with Long Beach still in the lead.
The upward trend for the ‘Eaters continued as junior first baseman, Jacob Castro, connected again and ran for first. This led to another point made by Church who tied the game two-a-piece with bases loaded once again.
Junior catcher Dillon Tatum sacrificed himself so Peabody could score and give UCI their very first lead, 3-2. After the first inning it seemed like both teams’ pitchers struggled. However, the two stand out pitchers, UCI’s Frias and LBSU’s Ramirez, were impressive throughout this game.
Neither of them allowed any more points on the scoreboard. Ramirez played straight into the eighth inning while Frias played all the way to the seventh. Frias struck out nine batters throughout the game while Ramirez had five. Throughout the game, UCI used three pitchers and Long Beach only used two.
The rest of the game was scoreless due to improved pitching and defense on both sides. One of the key defensive players on UCI ended up being Castro who proved to be an annoyance for Long Beach in the first base area.
One of Castro’s highlights was in the second inning after a foul pop close to first base by LBSU’s sophomore shortstop, Toren Craig. During this play, freshman second baseman Sebastian Murillo was halfway to second base. He tried to run back but Castro and freshman second baseman, Woody Hadeen, outsmarted Murillo and got him out.
The second game was scoreless after the first inning allowing UCI to narrowly beat their black and blue rival in an intense close game, 3-2.
UCI continues to remain at the Big West Conference while Long Beach stays in sixth place. The Anteaters look to continue to win in Sunday’s game against Long Beach on May 2 at 1 p.m. in Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark while Long Beach looks to end the series in a tie.
Marcos Gonzalez is a Sports Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org