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UC Santa Barbara Dethrones UC Irvine for the Top Spot of the Big West Conference

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The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (30-13, 21-8) defeated the UC Irvine Anteaters (26-15, 18-7), 6-5, in a thrilling first game of the series at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium in Santa Barbara, Calif. on May 7. 

The Anteaters started the first inning strong as they obtained a quick lead early on. The inning was highlighted by Irvine’s junior center fielder Mike Peabody, who had four at-bats, two runs and a hit averaging around 0.318 during the game. 

With a double and two RBI’s in the first inning, Peabody allowed redshirt freshman right fielder Nathan Church and junior designated hitter Jake Palmer to score, making it 2-0. 

With no outs in the first inning, Anteater freshman left fielder Luke Spillane hit a sacrifice fly so Peabody could run to make it a 3-0 lead. 

Although the top of the first was a shaky start for UCSB, they played the bottom of the first skillfully. The Gaucho’s energy shift started with a play being challenged by Irvine. If it was accepted, UCSB’s freshman shortstop Jordan Sprinkle would have been the first out, giving Irvine’s starting junior pitcher Trenton Denholm some momentum. 

Luck proved to be against the Anteaters, as the umpire denied the challenge in a critical and controversial decision. 

The challenge sparked the Gaucho’s comeback as Sprinkle and redshirt sophomore third baseman Cole Cummings both scored, with UCI still in the lead, 3-2.

Cummings and Sprinkle carried the team on their shoulders as their batting seemed to be too much for UCI. Cummings had five at-bats, three runs, three hits, an RBI and a home run. While Sprinkle got five at-bats, two runs, five hits and an RBI. 

Gauchos sophomore pitcher Michael McGreevy improved after the first inning collapse as he showed up in the top of the second inning with a 1-2-3. 

At the top of the third, McGreevy faced trouble against UCI’s second baseman, Justin Torres. Torres’ double became the catalyst for UCI’s three-point lead as Peabody and junior first baseman Jacob Castro made it to home plate. The play cushioned the Anteater’s lead, 5-2. 

Irvine’s biggest problems were their four errors; one of which led to a run by Sprinkle who made it 5-3 in the bottom of the third. The Gauchos lessened the gap with a base hit to right field. Santa Barbara’s junior second baseman Jason Willow allowed teammate freshman right fielder Zach Rodriguez to score, 5-4. 

UCI in the fourth inning was scoreless due to McGreevy having two strikeouts in the inning, allowing UCSB to tie the game, 5-5. 

The bottom of the sixth inning proved to be the deciding factor of the game as Cummings made a home run after Denholm struck out the first two batters to allow the lead, 6-5. 

The ninth inning ended in dramatic fashion as UCI had the base loaded and two outs. UCI’s hope was in Torres but UCSB’s sophomore pitcher Clayton Hall ended the game with a strikeout. 

The Anteaters look for revenge in their rematch doubleheader game on Saturday, May 8 at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. 

Marcos Gonzalez is a Sports Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. He can be reached at marcosg9@uci.edu