UC Irvine Holds Off Matador Rally To Win Series Opener
IRVINE, Calif. --- UC Irvine built a 6-0 lead but had to withstand a late rally by Cal State Northridge before coming away with a 7-5 decision Friday at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark.
Jerry McClanahan tied for a career-high with three RBI and combined with Connor Spencer for five of the team's seven runs while Andrew Morales logged another stellar start on the mound to improve to 7-0.
The senior held CSUN scoreless through the first six innings, before yielding his first run with one out in the sixth to end his scoreless inning streak at 31.2 innings. Morales struck out nine and did not walk a batter while yielding a pair of runs on five hits. The two earned runs allowed by Morales were the first he has given up at Anteater Ballpark this year.
UCI was stymied by starter Brycen Rutherford through the first three innings but got to the right-hander in the fourth. Spencer posted the team's first hit with one out in the inning and then took second on a base on balls issued to Taylor Sparks. With two outs, Jerry McClanahan drove a 2-2 pitch to left, driving in both runs for a 2-0 lead.
The 'Eaters continued the pressure in the fifth, stringing together four consecutive hits. Grant Palmer and Chris Rabago sparked the inning with back-to-back hits, putting runners on first and third with no outs. Spencer crushed a triple to the left-center gap, good for two runs, and Sparks followed with a run-scoring triple of his own to right-centerfield to chase Rutherford from the game. Sparks was pushed across on a grounder to second by Jonathan Munoz for the 6-0 lead.
CSUN mounted its rally in the top of the seventh as Morales yielded his first leadoff hit of the night to Chester Pak. Nicolas Osuna chipped in a one-out hit and both runners advanced on a passed ball before Pak would score on a run-scoring grounder to short from Dylan Alexander. Michael Livingston cut UCI's lead to 6-2 with a single up the middle.
Morales handed the ball to Jimmy Litchfield in the eighth and the southpaw retired the side in order. However, in the ninth the Matadors made their final push. Nick Blaser reached on catcher's interference and Osuna, Alexander and Livingston all hit clean singles to drive in one and load the bases. Sam Moore was called out of the bullpen and promptly lined out Brett Balkan for the sacrifice fly and the first out of the inning. Pinch-hitter AB Blanchet loaded the bases again with a hit to left and Ranny Lowe's fielder's choice allowed Alexander to score. That would be all as Ryan Raslowsky bounced to short and Sparks connected with Palmer at second to end the game.
Moore earned his 14th save with an inning of one-hit relief. McClanahan was 2 for 4 with three RBI while Spencer drove in a pair of runs on two hits. Rabago also added two hits in the win with Sparks and Munoz driving in a run apiece.
The series continues Saturday at 1:00 p.m.