IRVINE, Calif. --- UC Irvine protected an early three-run lead in a 5-2 win against 18th-ranked Arizona State Saturday at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark.
Andrew Morales logged seven innings, striking out five and holding the Sun Devils to four hits while yielding a pair of unearned runs. The right-hander earned his first win (1-0) of the year while Sam Moore dealt two innings of one-hit relief to record his third save.
Eight Anteater hitters came to the plate in the bottom of the first against starter Ryan Kellogg. Grant Palmer cracked a single to left to lead off the inning and Taylor Sparks followed with a one-out hit up the middle. Connor Spencer extended the frame with a hit through the right side to drive in Palmer, putting the Anteaters on the board. Jerry McClanahan jumped on the first pitch with a single to right center, scoring Sparks and Kris Paulino followed with an RBI hit to right, giving UCI a 3-0 lead.
Arizona State broke through in the sixth. Taking advantage of an Anteater error, the Sun Devils put runners on first and second following a hit by Drew Stankiewicz. Johnny Sewald doubled in Tucker Esmay and ASU then loaded the bases after Nathaniel Causey was issued a walk. Dalton Dinatale sacrificed to right and Paulino speared a sinking line-drive by RJ Ybarra to end the inning.
UCI punched back in the bottom of the inning. Justin Castro sparked the rally by beating out an infield single. After stealing second, the outfielder came around to score on a clutch, two-out hit by Adam Alcantara.
In the bottom of the seventh, Palmer, who was 3 for 4 with two runs scored, hit a hard line drive off third baseman Joey Bielek for a single. Chris Rabago and Spencer loaded the bases with a pair of walks and McClanahan hit a fly-ball to right for the second out. Palmer, tagging on the play, looked to be out on a strong throw from Trever Allen. With Ybarra positioned slightly up the line, Palmer managed to avoid the lunge tag, skirted around the catcher and dove to slap home plate, scoring the final run.
McClanahan had two runs batted in to lead the team while Alcantara drove in a run on two hits.
UCI hosts Long Beach State in a non-conference game Sunday at Anteater Ballpark at 1:00 p.m.