No. 24 seeded UC Irvine’s Baseball team (33-15, 25-7) defeated UC Riverside (14-29, 12-24), 9-1, to add to their four-game sweep on May 16 at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark.
After losing the first three games in the series, UC Riverside looked to end their eight-game losing streak while UCI wanted to continue their own six-game winning streak.
After the first inning, both teams looked evenly matched, especially on the pitching side. The Anteater’s junior pitcher Peter Van Loon had a total of 10 strikeouts, four hits and one run within seven innings. Meanwhile, the Highlanders’ freshman pitcher Eric Marrujo pitched five innings, had three strikeouts, allowed eight hits and six runs.
In the second inning, things changed when Irvine’s junior second baseman Justin Torres opened the game up with a solo home run making the score 1-0. This was Torres’ second home run of the season with the previous also against UC Riverside.
Junior catcher Dillon Tatum continued Torres’ momentum after he hit a single that ricocheted off Marrujo’s foot.
Marrujo proceeded to walk UCI freshman third baseman Connor McGuire to load first base while freshman left fielder Luke Spillane was at second and Torres was at third.
With the bases fully loaded and two outs, Marrujo hit junior designated hitter Jake Palmer with a pitch to bring in Torres from third, 2-0.
The top of the third inning was uneventful for Van Loon as he had a quick 1-2-3 and made his fourth strikeout.
Torres once again made his mark in the game when his base hit allowed junior center fielder Mike Peabody to make the score 3-0.
The top of the fourth was highlighted by the only error of the match when Van Loon threw the ball to Tatum’s hand and he dropped the ball and it took him a second longer to throw it to first base allowing UCR’s redshirt junior designated hitter Dylan Orick to run to first base.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, it seemed like UCR was going to keep the score at 3-0 until Peabody connected with the ball and drove it off the wall. Redshirt freshman right fielder Nathan Church was able to score after Peabody’s two-out RBI triple.
Peabody stole home base while Murrujo was distracted with junior first baseman Jacob Castro making the score 5-0.
“We talked about the steal of home,” Peabody said. “We knew he [Maruhho] was slow to the plate out of the windup. We took a strike to see, and then once that happened it was like, ‘alright, let’s do it.’”
Peabody finished the day going one-for-four at the plate, with an RBI triple, a walk, a stolen base and two runs scored.
The Anteaters continued to pile on runs as Tatum hit his 12th home run of the year to make it a 6-0 game.
While Murrujo struggled, Van Loon was dealing from the mound and continued to retire the Highlander hitters.
The top of the seventh inning was highlighted by the only score by Riverside when redshirt freshman first baseman Joey Nicolai batted the ball off the wall, good for a RBI double, 6-1.
“The strikeouts came from a lot of fastball height,” Peabody said. “Coach [Daniel] Bibona preaches in fastball height, and that’s something I’ve been struggling with. I felt more on top today, and that just sets up everything else. As a pitching staff we’re definitely tough to beat when we have good height.”
In the bottom of the seventh, with both Torres and Tatum on base, Spillane took it upon himself to move the runners with a sacrifice bunt. This sacrifice ended up being the UCI’s 45th sacrifice of the season.
McGuire’s base hit allowed both Torres and Tatum to score while McGuire stretched it out for a double, 8-1.
Later, junior shortstop Taishi Nakawake had his first base of the night which allowed McGuire to score, making the game 9-1.
Irvine’s junior pitcher Gordon Ingebritson and redshirt senior pitcher Dylan Riddle ended the top of the eighth inning. Ingebritson struck out two of the three batters.
UCR’s redshirt sophomore pitcher, Andre Granillo, seemed to be the team’s only pitcher that stopped the UCI offense as Granillo had a quick 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eight.
Finally, the game ended when Riddle pitched an easy 1-2-3 inning to end the game which allowed UCI to sweep the series with a 9-1 victory.
UC Irvine, now ranked 20th in the nation, will face CSU Bakersfield in a four-game series that starts Friday, May 21 at 3 p.m. in Hardt Field.
Marcos Gonzalez is a Sports Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.