SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. --- The game was as good as advertised as UC Irvine's Andrew Morales and Cal Poly's Matt Imhof squared off Friday and battled in a 3-2 Anteater win Friday at Baggett Stadium to open the series.
Morales dealt eight innings, striking out nine and held a potent Mustang offense to two runs on six hits while striking out nine to improve to 9-0 on the year.
Imhof (8-4) matched Morales with eight frames of his own and struck out 13 while surrendering three runs on three hits.
Imhoff retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced, including striking out seven in the final three frames of his outing and Morales allowed just one Mustang hitter to reach third in the final five innings of his stint.
Morales then handed the ball to Sam Moore in the ninth. Nick Torres flared a single to left to lead off the inning but Moore bounced back and struck out the side to post his 23rd save of the year.
The difference in the game would be unearned run in the fifth. With UCI trailing 2-1, Justin Castro hit a leadoff single and John Brontsema drew a one-out, four-pitch walk as UCI put runners on first and second. Grant Palmer delivered with a run-scoring, hit-and-run single to center to tie the game at 2-2. Chris Rabago stepped up to the plate. Imhof, trying to pick off Brontsema at second, threw the ball wide and Brontsema took third on the error. Rabago then hit a 2-0 pitch to right-field. Torres gave chase into foul territory and made the catch but slipped on the wet grass and Brontsema was able to tag and plate the eventual game-winning run.
The Anteaters proved to be opportunistic and capitalized on a leadoff walk issued to Jerry McClanahan in the second to get on the board. Following the bunt from Jonathan Munoz, Castro drove a 2-0 pitch up the middle as UCI took a 1-0 lead.
Cal Poly tied and took the lead in the third. Chris Hoo got a leadoff walk and was singled to second by Peter Van Gansen. After striking out Ryan Drobny, Morales looked to be out of the inning as Mark Mathias hit a grounder to second. However, the ball took a kangaroo hop over Brontsema for a single and Jordan Ellis laid down a bunt on the safely squeeze to drive to complete the two-run frame.
Castro provided stellar play in the outfield, tracking down two deep fly balls to center off the bat of Brian Mundell and then robbing Mark Mathias of extra bases with a catch at the wall in the left-center gap in the fifth.
UCI's defense also was key in the Cal Poly sixth. After a leadoff single from Torres, Morales snared a come-backer off the bat of Mundell. His throw to second bounced to Rabago, who made the clean pick and the Anteaters would get a second pick from Connor Spencer at first to complete the double-play.
Castro, Rabago and Palmer each had an RBI with Castro leading the 'Eaters with two hits.