Photo by Brennan Kraus / Staff

The UCI Men’s Baseball team (22-14, 9-6) broke their three-game losing streak against the Kansas State Wildcats, 16-7, (20-18, 3-9) at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas on Saturday, April 23. 

The Anteaters wasted no time at the top of the first inning as sophomore catcher Thomas McCaffrey hit a three-run home run blast with two batters at base to create a 3-0 lead for Irvine. McCaffrey made it a difficult night for the Kansas State pitching staff with five at-bats, two runs, four hits, six RBIs, one double and two home runs overall. 

Despite the Anteaters’ strong start, the Wildcats seemed to bounce back at the bottom of the first when senior interior left-fielder Jeff Heinrich responded with a two-run home run as sophomore right-fielder Dominic Johnson waited at first base. Irvine’s redshirt senior pitcher Michael Frias responded with a quick 1-2-3 after Heinrich’s home run to end the bottom of the first, 2-3. 

Frias played a good game for UCI, facing 31 batters and 111 pitches. He pitched for seven innings and seven strikeouts while allowing three home runs and six runs allowed. UCI pitched better with only three pitchers out during the game while Kansas had six pitchers out in the field. 

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Connor McCullough was Kansas’ choice for starting pitcher; McCullough struggled throughout the game, especially in the top of the second inning. To start off the inning, McCullough walked sophomore outfielder Caden Kendle to first base. With two men covering bases and one out, redshirt senior first baseman Ben Fitzgerald exploded with a three-run homer to give Irvine the 2-6 lead. 

Fitzgerald and McCaffrey were the stars for the ‘Eaters and the Wildcats’ main challenge of the evening. Fitzgerald had seven at-bats, three runs, four hits, six RBIs, one double and two home runs to his name for this match. 

McCaffrey continued Fitzgerald’s dominance in the second inning as his off-the-wall hit gave two runners the opportunity to make the score 2-8 to end the second inning. 

At the top of the fourth, McCaffrey continued his hot streak as he hit a solo home run, making this his second of the night. With only one out, redshirt sophomore center-fielder Luke Spillane gave UCI fans the sacrificial bunt so freshman designated hitter Myles Smith could secure a 10-3 lead for the Anteaters. 

Fitzgerald followed with his second three-run home run to end the top of the fourth at 13-3 for UCI. Frias followed and showed why he is dubbed as UCI’s star pitcher in the bottom of the fifth with a quick 1-2-3 to end the fifth inning at 13-4 for the Anteaters. 

The ‘Eaters continued to control the game through the sixth inning. At the top of the sixth, graduate student infielder Taishi Nakawake made it to first with an infield hit, followed by Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald hit a double into right field, making this a four-hit game for the redshirt senior. 

With a walk to first by freshman infielder William “Dub” Gleed, the bases were loaded yet again with redshirt junior infielder Justin Torres next up at bat. Torres made a two-RBI base hit, giving the ‘Eaters another two runs. The Irvine squad successfully held off the Wildcats at defense, and the sixth inning ended 16-4.

Approaching the seventh inning, the ‘Eaters were unable to make any runs. Freshman outfielder Brendan Jones of Kansas State was able to hit a single up the middle of the field, allowing for an RBI double and a score of 16-6 to end the seventh inning.

At the bottom of the eighth, the Wildcats’ redshirt freshman catcher Raphael Pelletier hit a home run into deep right-center field, making this his third long ball of the season. With strong defense on both teams, the game concluded with a score of 16-7.

The ‘Eaters faced Kansas State in two additional matches on April 22 and 23, resulting in one loss and one win. Next, UCI baseball will take on the UCLA Bruins at the Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26.

Leila Amiri is a Sports Intern for the spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at amiril@uci.edu.


Marcos Gonzalez is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at marcosg9@uci.edu.