The No. 17 UC Irvine Anteaters (35-16, 27-8) played against the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners (20-18, 17-14) for a Big West doubleheader match up at Hardt Field on Saturday, May 22. Both teams split a victory each, with UCI taking the first game of the afternoon, 2-1, and Bakersfield taking the second game, 11-9.
Game 1: UC Irvine 2 – CSU Bakersfield 1
Game 1 started off strong with both team’s star pitchers — UCI freshman pitcher Nick Pinto and CSU Bakersfield senior pitcher Aaron Charles.
For Irvine, Pinto pitched a total of 7.2 innings, allowing only seven hits and one run. Comparatively, Charles pitched only for 4.1 innings, allowing just six hits and two runs.
The first inning started with Charles striking out the first two UCI batters. Then, junior center fielder Mike Peabody hit one to run for first base. Charles followed this play by accidentally hitting junior first baseman Jacob Castro, which allowed Peabody to jog to second base. Charles composed his nerves right away, which resulted in him striking out junior second baseman Justin Torres. This ended the top of the first.
Pinto improved in the bottom of the first, refusing to allow the Roadrunners to get a hit. The one time Bakersfield was able to get on base was when Pinto walked redshirt sophomore center fielder Jacen Roberson to first base.
In the bottom of the second, Peabody played great defense as freshman third baseman Nick Salas lobbed one down the middle. Peabody then dove to make the safe, giving Bakersfield their second out of the inning.
The top of the third was highlighted by an unfortunate error made by sophomore shortstop Aaron Casillas. Casillas was unable to catch the ball, which dipped under him. This allowed Peabody to go to first and redshirt freshman right fielder Nathan Church to go to third. However, the inning ended scoreless due to superior pitching by Charles.
UCI followed up the bottom of the third with their own error. Junior shortstop Taishi Nakawake mistakenly threw the ball short towards Castro; this was off a big hit by senior catcher Cody Holtz, which started a big play by Bakersfield.
After Holtz landed on first base off of Nakawake’s error, senior second baseman Evan Berkey had a base hit down the middle. With two outs, Roberson had an RBI single. This RBI marked Roberson’s 33rd RBI of the year, and it allowed Holtz to make the score, 1-0, in favor of the Roadrunners.
Following, freshman third baseman Connor McGuire connected with the ball down left-center for an RBI double. This allowed freshman left fielder Luke Spillane to tie up the game, 1-1. Then, Pinto pulled a quick 1-2-3 inning at the bottom of the fourth.
The fifth inning started strong for Charles as he struck out junior designated hitter Jake Palmer, making this the first out of the inning. However, Charles quickly lost control as he allowed Church to connect with a base hit up the middle and secure a run to first base.
Suddenly, Charles was psyched out by Peabody, which caused him to overthrow a ball towards first base missing the first baseman. This allowed Church to sprint from first base to third base. Peabody then connected with a base hit that allowed Church to run and score the 2-1 lead.
After Church’s run, the Roadrunners replaced Charles with sophomore pitcher Kellen O’Connor. For Game 1 of the doubleheader, Bakersfield had a total of three pitchers while UCI stuck with Pinto the whole game. Pinto had a total of 10 strikeouts, and he was one run all the way to the eight inning until he was replaced by freshman pitcher Jacob King.
The game ended with a strikeout by King on sophomore pinch hitter/designated hitter Kobe Silva. Ultimately, King was able to hold onto the 2-1 victory to save UCI. With this win, Irvine added to their nine-game winning streak; they looked to make it 10 in the second game of the evening.
Game 2: CSU Bakersfield 11 – UCI 9
With only a 40-minute separation between Game 1 and Game 2, the Bakersfield team came out with a new found determination; they refused to let UCI take their 10th straight victory.
Unlike the amazing pitching in the first game, UCI struggled throughout most of the game. Redshirt senior pitcher Ethan Skuija started, and he walked both Palmer and Church into first and second base, respectively.
The inning began with a strikeout by redshirt sophomore pitcher Michael Frias on Berkey, but Bakersfield completely dominated right after that pitch. Frias then began to struggle as he walked Roberson to first base. Even so, Frias quickly redeemed himself after he struck out redshirt senior first baseman Tyler Jorgensen.
With two outs, Bakersfield got on the board first with a base hit down center field by Silva. This earned Silva an RBI single and allowed Charles to score, 1-0. Then, redshirt senior right fielder Nick Grossman followed with an RBI double that gave way for Roberson. The score was now 2-0.
To end the first inning, Casillas hit a two-run single. This allowed Silva and Grossman to both score and make it 4-0. This RBI marked Casillas’ 10th RBI, and he showed no signs of stopping this match.
In the second inning, Torres, who was walked by Skuija to first base, attempted to steal second from a wild pitch by Skuija. However, he ended up costing UCI their first out of the inning.
Spillane put UCI right back on track with a big hit to the right side. This bounced off the wall, allowing junior catcher Dillon Tatum to make the score, 4-1, Bakersfield leading.
UCI was beginning to build up some momentum until another collapse was made by Frias, and he was immediately replaced by junior pitcher Tanner Brooks. Still, Brooks did not fare any better as each pitcher allowed two scores each.
With the bases loaded, Grossman took advantage with a base hit. This allowed both Jorgensen and Silvae to make it a 6-1 lead. Wth Brooks on the mound, freshman third baseman Jo Stevens connected with a two run single. Grossman and Casillas then made the score, 8-1.
The fourth inning was highlighted by Palmer, who hit his 13th RBI of the year. This allowed McGuire to score, 8-2. After this, Palmer suffered an injury from connecting the ball. He was subsequently replaced by freshman pinch hitter/designated hitter Thomas McCaffrey in the sixth inning.
After an overthrown pitch, Nakawake scored to make it 8-3. However, Bakersfield quickly answered in the bottom of the sixth as Roberson connected once again, allowing Stevens to make it 9-3.
All seemed lost, but the eighth inning gave UCI some hope. McGuire started and walked to first base. However, McGuire became the first out when he could not complete his journey to second base as Nakawake ran for first.
With Church next on bat, Irvine had high hopes. He immediately hit an RBI single that had McCaffrey in second and Church in first. Peabody connected with a huge three run blast, making this the eight home run of the year for him. Peabody, McCaffrey and Church all ran home to score. The score was 11-7.
The ninth inning carried a lot of suspense as UCI was down by only two points. Strategically, Bakersfield replaced their redshirt senior pitcher Graham Kuck with freshman pitcher Jack Lee after Kuck struck out McCaffrey and Church on first base. Lee showed determination by striking out both Peabody and Castro, ending UCI’s nine game winning streak. With this, Lee earned his fourth save of the season, and CSU Bakersfield closed the match with an entertaining 11-9 victory.
With this loss, UCI looks to prove their No. 17 worthiness as they face Bakersfield one last time in Hardt Field on Sunday, May 23.
Marcos Gonzalez is a Sports Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org