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The Anteaters Close the Door on the Highlanders to Open Up a Saturday Doubleheader

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The No. 24 UC Irvine Anteaters (33-15, 25-7) faced off against the UC Riverside Highlanders (14-29, 12-24) during the opening match of the weekend’s doubleheader on Saturday, May 15. The Anteaters narrowly defeated the Highlanders in a 9-8 comeback. 

To start the game, freshman left-handed pitcher Nick Pinto took the mound against redshirt sophomore pitcher Tyler Frazier. Pinto struggled at the beginning of the match, hanging an off-speed pitch for redshirt senior center fielder Travis Bohall, who was the leadoff hitter, to hit a home run to deep center. 

Pinto rebounded with more comfortable pitches on the next hitter, earning a swinging strikeout. Finishing the open inning, Pinto struck out but found exploits in the Highlanders’ pitches. Even with little time left in the program, Pinto has proved to be a positive addition for the Anteaters this season.

To begin his day, Frazier set to attack the Anteaters’ lineup; however, junior designated hitter Jake Palmer mirrored the Highlanders, hitting a solo home run to right field. The Anteaters had great at-bats early in the game, and they made sure to throw off Frazier’s pitching quality. Keeping the offense rolling in this way has been the key for many teams across the nation in college baseball, even when the hits aren’t coming. 

At the top of the second inning, the Highlanders came back strong as they loaded the bases against Pinto with no outs. The Anteaters got the force-out at second off of a ground ball, allowing one run to score. To finish the inning, Pinto struck out the rest with a nasty curveball inside. The Anteaters limited the Highlanders to only one run in a tough jam but failed to strike back in the bottom. After two innings, the Anteaters trailed 2-1.

Pinto cleared the third inning behind the back of a different double play: a strikeout, leading into a great throw from freshman catcher Thomas McCaffrey to catch a Highlander stealing. Answering back in the bottom of the third, the Anteaters earned a two-out rally led by junior center fielder Mike Peabody who drove in the run with great contact off of the bat. The Highlanders got out of the inning with a ground out to second base.

The contest was tied at 2-2 as the Highlanders took the plate in the top of the fourth inning. After a leadoff single, Pinto struck out two in a row and secured a ground out to finish the inning. The Anteaters set themselves up on offense, loading the bases with no outs. Following, freshman third baseman Connor McGuire hit a sacrifice fly; this put UCI up, 3-2. The Anteaters extended their lead with the next batter answering with another sacrifice fly. After four innings, the Anteaters led 4-2. In the bottom of the fifth, Peabody crushed a pitch over the wall to put the Anteaters up 5-2. 

Both teams found their rhythm on the mound as they cruised to shutout sixth innings. With stronger pitching in the eighth, freshman pitcher Jacob King entered to close out the game for the Anteaters. King’s play allowed zero runs, leading the Anteaters to victory.

The UC Irvine Anteaters defeated the UC Riverside Highlanders by a score of 5-2 in the opening game of the Saturday doubleheader in Cicerone Field in Irvine, Calif. The Anteaters won 5-1 in their third game of the four-game series on Saturday, May 15.

Matthew Zeko is a Staff Writer. He can be reached at mzeko@uci.edu