CORVALLIS, Ore. --- UC Irvine took a 4-0 lead in the fifth and never looked back, winning 14-2 against top-seeded Oregon State Saturday at Goss Stadium. With the win, the Anteaters will play the winner of OSU-UNLV Sunday at 8:00 p.m.
The game proved to be a pitchers' duel with both starting pitchers logging three scoreless innings to start the game.
Connor Spencer, who finished the night 3 for 4 with two RBI, had UCI's first hit of the game, a double in the bottom of the fourth and was sacrificed to third by Jerry McClanahan. Beaver starter Jace Fry bounced out Jonathan Munoz to first but his 0-2 pitch to Grant Palmer was in the dirt, allowing Spencer to score the first run of the game on a wild pitch.
Taylor Sparks robbed Keyes of extra bases in the top of the fifth, diving to knock down a hard grounder behind the third-base bag. Sparks scrambled to his feet and threw a one-hopper that was picked neatly by Spencer for the out and after a walk issued by starter Elliot Surrey, the lefty would retire the next two batters to leave a runner stranded.
UCI extended the lead in the sixth as Justin Castro sparked an 'Eater rally with a one-out double down the right-field line. Sparks laced a hit past the third-base bag but the ball hit the third-base umpire and bounced to shortstop Trevor Morrison, robbing Sparks of extra bases. With runners at first and third, Chris Rabago laid down the bunt for the safety squeeze. Fry fielded the ball cleanly but the speedy Castro slid under the tag to score the go-ahead run. Spencer was hit by the pitch to load the bases and McClanahan delivered with the bunt for a two-run squeeze that gave UCI a 4-0 advantage.
Surrey settled in and pitched a shutout seventh and UCI widened the lead to six in the bottom of the frame on a solo shot by Sparks, who moved into fourth all-time in the UCI records with his 18th round-tripper. Spencer belted a one-out double to left, his second of the game and would come around to score on the sacrifice fly by Renae Martinez, who came off the bench to pinch-hit for Munoz.
The Beavers cut into the lead in the top of the eighth. Surrey gave up a single to Logan Ice and followed with a walk of Caleb Hamilton. Surrey handed the ball to Sam Moore, who grounded out pinch hitter Michael Howard but then gave up a two-run single to Jeff Hendrix as OSU trimmed the lead to 6-2. Moore surrendered a single and a walk to load the bases. Mitch Merten was summoned out of the pen and the senior halted the OSU rally by popping up Dylan Davis and striking out Gabe Clark.
UCI broke the game open in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases for Spencer, who singled off reliever Zack Reser to drive in two runs. McClanahan drew a walk and Martinez delivered with his second sacrifice of the day to score Rabago. The inning continued as reliever Phillip Belding walked Alcantara to load the bases again for Paulino, who belted a grand slam home run over the right-field fence, giving UCI the 14-2 advantage.
Jimmy Litchfield entered in the ninth and gave up a pair of hits in an otherwise scoreless inning to end the game.
Surrey improved to 7-4 after striking out eight and holding OSU to two runs on three hits in seven innings of work. Paulino led UCI with four runs batted in on two hits while Spencer and McClanahan drove in two runs each.
Fry suffered just his second loss of the year, dropping to 11-2 after giving up six runs on six hits in 6.2 innings.