Morales Blanks Highlanders, 'Eaters Post Season-High Hits
IRVINE, Calif. --- Andrew Morales recorded his second consecutive complete-game shutout to lead UC Irvine to an 8-0 win over UC Riverside in the Big West opener Friday at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark.
The right-hander tied a career-high with 12 strikeouts and now has pitched 18 scoreless innings. Morales started the game by striking out the side and faced the minimum through five. He surrendered a single to Drake Zarate to lead off the third but Jerry McClanahan fired a strike to Taylor Sparks to erase Zarate at second. Francisco Tellez also singled off Morales, hitting a single to center with one out in the fourth but the senior, who improved to 5-0 on the year, induced an inning-ending double play.
The Anteaters gave Morales plenty of support, posting a season-high 17 hits. Every Anteater starter logged at least one hit with Connor Spencer, Taylor Sparks and Jonathan Munoz were 3 for 4 at the plate while McClanahan and Kris Paulino each added a pair of hits.
UCI jumped on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first. Grant Palmer was hit by the pitch to lead off the inning and was sacrificed to second by Chris Rabago. Spencer followed with a hit and Sparks drove in Palmer with a sacrifice to center. Munoz drove in Spencer with a hard double off the glove of third baseman, Alex Rubanowitz for a 2-0 lead.
Kris Paulino extended UCI's lead to three in the bottom of the fourth with a run-scoring sacrifice to drive in McClanahan, who led off the inning with a single.
UCI broke the game open with four runs in the seventh. Rabago doubled to left and Spencer posted his third hit of the night. With no one covering on the play, a steal by Spencer put runners on second and third with no outs. Sparks followed with a clean RBI hit up the middle and Munoz tucked a double just inside the left-field line for his second run-scoring hit of the game. Starter Jacob Smigelski was lifted for reliever Jordan Kron and a failed pickoff attempt at first by the lefty allowed Sparks to plate a run before McClanahan would drive in Munoz with a hit to left.
Sparks capped the scoring in the eighth, cashing in a double by Paulino.
Morales faced just two over the minimum in the win and allowed just one batter to reach scoring position.
Smigelski fell to 3-3 after giving up seven runs in six innings of work.