LOS ANGELES, Calif. --- UC Irvine's pitching staff combined to hold USC to a single run in the sixth and one in the ninth in a 6-2 win Tuesday at Dedeaux Field. With the win, the Anteaters sweep the Trojans and climb to 29-14 on the year.
Evan Manarino set the tone for the 'Eaters, logging four scoreless innings and held the Trojans to three hits while striking out six in a no-decision. Mitch Merten followed with 1.2 innings, giving up an unearned run on two hits and Matt Fielding came out with the win after scattering three hits in two scoreless frames to improve to 2-0 on the year. Jimmy Litchfield allowed a run in the final 1.1 innings but entered in the Trojans eighth to get UCI out of a jam and went on to pick up his second save. Litchfield also made his 110th career appearance to move into second in the UCI career records and is three shy of tying the all-time mark of 113 set by Blair Erickson.
UCI jumped on the board in the third as Grant Palmer doubled to lead off the inning, sinking a 2-1 offering from starter Brooks Kriske into left-center where Timmy Robinson was unable to make the diving play. Chris Rabago's sacrifice pushed Palmer to third and after Kriske plunked Taylor Sparks with two outs, Jonathan Munoz came up clutch with the RBI hit to give UCI a 1-0 lead.
The 'Eaters had an opportunity to add to their lead in the fifth, loading the bases against reliever Jeff Paschke but the right-hander struck out Jerry McClanahan to end the rally and keep UCI's lead to one.
USC put together its first scoring opportunity in the bottom of the fifth, getting a leadoff double from Blake Lacey. Dante Flores sacrificed back to Manarino but the throw to third, in an attempt to get Lacey, was late as the Trojans put runners on first and third with no outs. Manarino handed the ball to Merten, who struck out Vahn Bozoian for the first out. Reggie Southall then drew a walk to load the bases but Merten got Kevin Swick to fly out to Paulino and with Lacey tagging on the play, the right-fielder threw a strike to McClanahan in time for the inning-ending double play.
The Trojans would even the score in the sixth as Lacey hit a timely two-out single to drive in Jake Hernandez, who had singled and taken third on an error by Rabago.
UCI broke the game open in the seventh, scoring four runs in the inning against the Trojan bullpen. Palmer singled, was sacrificed to second and scored as Spencer went the other way with a run-scoring hit for a 2-1 lead. Sparks coaxed his second walk of the night and following a double steal, Spencer plated a run on an error by Southall. UCI continued to apply the offensive pressure as McClanahan singled in Sparks and Paulino squeezed home pinch-runner Jonathan Herkins as the 'Eaters took a 5-1 advantage.
The Anteaters added a run in the ninth on a sacrifice attempt that led to a costly error by the Trojans. With Spencer and Sparks on first and second, Herkins was called on to move the runners over. With Herkins squared to bunt, reliever Nigel Nootbaar's 2-1 pitch hit the bat square and knocked down Herkins. As Herkins scrambled up and ran to first, Nootbaar dropped the ball and then had to hurry the throw to first which got away from Hernandez, allowing Spencer to score, Sparks to take third and Herkins to take second on the error. Nootbaar then walked McClanahan but that would be all as Sean Adler entered in relief and struck out one before getting an inning-ending groundball to short.
USC strung together a pair of two-out hits in the ninth to score a run but Palmer made a diving catch on a line drive by Garrett Stubbs to end the game.
Palmer led UCI, batting 3 for 5 while Munoz drove in two runs on one hit. Spencer also had an RBI on two hits and scored twice.