UC Irvine men’s baseball team was home against Cal State Northridge in a three-game series.
On Friday night at Cicerone Field, third baseman Taylor Sparks became a hero with his 11th-inning walk-off single to right that drove in Connor Spencer from second as the Anteaters edged Cal State Northridge 4-3. Friday night’s victory marked the sixth W in a row for the ’Eaters, making it the longest win-streak of the season.
UC Irvine took an early 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and third. As Thurman cruised through the first three innings, he gave up a hit and a run by Josh Goossen-Brown in the fourth. Irvine was held scoreless by Jerry Keel and the Matador bullpen for the next six innings, and gave Northridge a chance to tie the game, which they did in the eighth with an RBI single by Michael Livingston.
As they went into extra innings, the Matadors would take their first lead of the game in the top of the 10th on Kyle Attl’s first hit of the game against reliever Race Parmenter to drive in the go-ahead run. However, UCI fought back in the bottom of the inning and tied the score at 3-3 on an RBI single by Jerry McClanahan.
With one out in the top of the 11th, CSUN reliever Brycen Rutherford walked Spencer. Spencer took second on a wild pitch, and Sparks worked the count full before hitting the ball to shallow right field. Spencer was waved around third and slid around catcher Alexis Mercado for the win.
Sparks went 3/6 with two runs batted in as he led the game in both hits and RBI. Starter Andrew Thurman held the Matadors to two runs on five hits while striking out nine in 7.2 innings, but did not factor in the decision. Mitch Merten came out of the Anteater bullpen in the 11th and struck out the side while giving up only one hit as he earned the win to climb to a 3-1 record.
On a Saturday afternoon in the chilly Anteater Ballpark, the Anteaters had their six-game win streak snapped after being held to one run in a 2-1 loss to Cal State Northridge.
Putting the first run on the board, Spencer took the 1-0 lead in the first for Irvine after Matador starter Calvin Copping threw one past the catcher giving Spencer enough time to sneak home. Unfortunately, the ’Eaters struggled offensively in the innings that followed. The Matadors took advantage of the quiet UCI bats and tied the game at 1-1 in the third before Michael Livingston drove in the game-winner in the seventh.
The Anteaters had opportunities in the second, with runners on first and third with no outs, and in the fifth, with runners at the corners with two outs but would come out scoreless.
The team’s last chance to score came in the eighth with two outs and Sparks on third. However, CSUN reliever DJ Milam would force a flyout to right to threaten the inning.
UCI starter Matt Whitehouse pitched well but suffered the loss, falling to 3-3 after dealing six innings and giving up two runs on nine hits. He struck out eight and walked two.
Copping, on the other hand, improved to 3-3 after 7.2 innings and only surrendered one run on seven hits. Milam had his first save of the season after a hitless and scoreless 1.1 innings.
After holding the Matadors scoreless on Sunday’s outing, left-handed pitcher Andrew Morales and reliever Mitch Merten led the ’Eaters to victory, clinching the series 2-1 after a 2-0 finish.
Morales now has a perfect 8-0 record on the season and, after Sunday’s game, has now pitched 14.1 scoreless innings. In seven innings Sunday, Morales gave up six hits while striking out six and walking two.
Merten earned his second save of the season while striking out two in the ninth frame.
Ronnie Shaeffer drove in the game winner in the fourth inning on a double that scored Connor. In the fifth inning, Grant Palmer led off with a double and took third base on a sacrifice bunt from Jonathan Herkins. Chris Rabago would get an RBI on a sacrifice fly, scoring Palmer for the 2-0 final.
The ’Eaters return to the diamond on Tuesday at Anteater Ballpark for a showdown against non-conference foe UCLA. Irvine then travels to Stockton for a three-game series versus Big West opponent, Pacific.
From the Anteater Ballpark, I’m Alex Chung, KUCI News.