SAN DIEGO, Calif. --- UC Irvine erupted for a season-high 16 runs and would need them as No. 24 San Diego came as close as two runs in a 16-11 Anteater win Tuesday at Fowler Park. The win lifted UCI to 33-14 overall while San Diego dropped to 33-17.
The Anteaters scored in every inning except the seventh with Ryan Cooper pacing the team with three RBI. Connor Spencer and Jonathan Munoz had three hits apiece and Chris Rabago, Adam Alcantara and Evan Cassolato chipped in two hits each as the team recorded a 17-hit onslaught.
The game started innocently enough as Evan Manarino fired three scoreless innings, limiting the Toreros to three hits. Rabago sparked a four-run first for the Anteaters as the shortstop hit a high chopper over the head of third baseman Brandon Defazio for a one-out single. Spencer drove an offering from starter Ryan Olson to center for a double to put runners on second and third and Taylor Sparks drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases for Munoz, who smacked a single through the right side to score Rabago. Grant Melker overran the ball on the play, allowing Spencer and Sparks to score and Munoz to take third on the two-base error. The designated hitter would plate the fourth run of the inning on a passed ball.
Cassolato put the pressure on reliever CJ Burdick in the second inning with a hit up the middle that scooted past diving shortstop Kyle Holder for a single. He was sacrificed to second before taking third on a wild pitch. Rabago hit a bouncer to third to drive in Cassolato and was safe after first baseman Josh Goosen-Brown dropped the ball.
Sparks drew his second base on balls in as many at-bats in the third and was off with the pitch to Munoz, who hit a grounder to second. Andrew Daniel, who broke to cover second, had to recover and was unable to come up with the ball for an error that put runners on first and second. With two outs in the inning, Cassolato, who was 2 for 3, delivered a timely RBI hit to right and Cooper followed by flaring a 1-0 pitch in the middle of a Torero trio for a two-run single.
Defensive struggles continued for San Diego as a grounder to short by McClanahan was mishandled, allowing two runs to score, giving UCI a 10-0 advantage in the fourth.
The Toreros got on the board against Manarino in the bottom of the fourth, getting a run-scoring double by Austin Bailey and a two-out single by Defazio to score two in the inning.
San Diego hurt its own cause in the fifth, walking Cooper to lead off the inning. A wild pitch and a passed ball put Cooper on third and he would plate a run on a grounder to short by Grant Palmer.
The fourth warmed up the Torero offense and USD plated six runs in the sixth. Louie Lechich hit a two-run home run against reliever Mitch Merten and the right-hander was unable to bounce back, walking the next two batters before giving way to junior Matt Fielding. The southpaw was likewise unable to halt the Torero rally, giving up an RBI double and two-run single before securing the first out of the inning. Fielding then was tagged for a double that scored one as the Toreros climbed back into the game, trailing 13-8. Fielding handed the ball off the senior Jimmy Litchfield, who put an end to the inning by grounding out Kyle Holder and popping up Defazio.
USD continued to hack into the Anteater lead in the seventh with three runs and nearly hit for the cycle in the inning, falling a home run shy of the feat while cutting UCI's lead to two at 13-11.
After giving up a leadoff single in the eighth, the 'Eaters turned to Sam Moore, who took the air out of the Toreros offense by getting a double play before striking out Defazio to close the eighth. Moore gave up a two-out walk in the ninth but remained unfazed and fanned Daniel to post the save.
Manarino was credited with the win to improve to 3-3 after striking out three and giving up two runs on eight hits in five innings.