UC Irvine scored 11 runs in the first two innings, giving starting pitcher Andre Pallante plenty of cushion to work with as the Anteaters won their series opener against host UC Riverside 11-4 on Thursday night and kept alive their hopes for a share of the Big West Conference title.
UCI’s win, combined with Cal Poly’s 3-0 victory over visiting UC Santa Barbara tightened the conference race heading into the final two days of the season. The 12th-ranked Gauchos (44-8 overall, 18-4 Big West) have a two-game lead over both UCI (36-16, 16-6) and Cal Poly (27-27, 16-6). If Cal Poly beats the Gauchos again Friday and Saturday in San Luis Obispo, UCI can finish in a three-way tie for the title by beating UCR (19-35, 7-15) twice more.
UCI had runners at second and third with one out in the first inning when it took control of Friday’s game. Seven consecutive hits followed, resulting in seven runs and an early exit for UCR starting pitcher Shamus Lyons (3-7).
Mike Peabody and Konnor Zickefoose each singled home runs in the second inning, then Jake Palmer added a two-run single of his own for an 11-0 lead.
Pallante (10-4) blanked the Highlanders until the fifth inning, when a double, a wild pitch and a groundout gave UCR its first run. Pallante held UCR to three runs over his six innings, striking out six against one walk. His 26th career win ties him for sixth with in program history with Glenn Swanson.
Kaz Akamatsu earned his first career save, allowing one run and two hits over three innings. He struck out the side in the eighth.
Palmer went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and a run scored to pace UCI. Adrian Damla (2 for 5, two RBIs, two runs scored), Konnor Zickefoose (2 for 3, two RBIs, two runs scored), Peabody (2 for 5, RBI, two runs scored) and Mikey Filia (2 for 5, one RBI, one run) also had multi-hit days for the Anteaters.
The series continues Friday at 6 p.m. at UCR. Trenton Denholm will start for UCI.
In other games …
Cal State Northridge 1, Cal State Fullerton 0: Timothy Josten pitched seven scoreless innings (two hits, five strikeouts), but the Titans dropped the opener of their season-ending series on a walk-off passed ball at CSUN.
Blake Doremus led off the bottom of the ninth with a pinch-hit single through the right side. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sean Skelly, then Andrew Lucas stroked a single through the left side of the infield to put runners at the corners with one out. With Wesley Ghan-Gibson at the plate, Fullerton reliever Kyle Luckham threw a pitch outside that catcher Kameron Guangorena could not stop. The ball bounced far enough from home plate for Doremus to dash home with the game’s only run.
Josten, who has allowed just three runs in his last five appearances, retired the final 13 batters he faced.
Mitchell Berryhill went 2 for 4 for the Titans (25-26, 11-11 Big West), raising his batting average to .416, which would be the fifth highest single-season average in program history. AJ Curtis also went 2 for 4, but the rest of the Fullerton lineup was held to one hit by CSUN’s Isaiah Nunez. The senior left-hander tied a career high with eight strikeouts in his 126-pitch outing for the Matadors (23-30, 9-13).
The series resumes Friday at 1 p.m., and the Titans now find themselves needing to win their final two games of the season to avoid finishing with the first losing record in program history.
No. 1 UCLA 4, Oregon 2: Michael Toglia’s two-run home run to left field in the eighth inning proved to be the difference as the top-ranked Bruins took the series opener in Eugene, Ore., and, combined with losses by No. 3 Stanford and No. 11 Oregon State, clinched the Pac-12 title.
Ryan Garcia (9-0) allowed just three hits in seven innings with six strikeouts and three walks for UCLA (46-8, 23-5 Pac-12), and Holden Powell earned his conference-leading 15th save. The Bruins have won nine games in a row and 25 of their past 27.
Ryan Kreidler (2 for 4, run scored), Jake Pries (2 for 4, RBI), Jack Stronach (2 for 4) and Noah Cardenas (2 for 3, RBI) paced the Bruins at the plate.
The series continues Friday at 6 p.m. Oregon is 27-28, 10-18.
USC 2, No. 11 Oregon State 0: John Beller pitched seven scoreless innings, then Chandler Champlain and Chris Clarke retired the final six batters in order as the Trojans (24-28-1, 12-14-1 Pac-12) shut out the Beavers (35-17-1, 20-7) in the opener of their three-game series in Corvallis, Ore.
USC took advantage of Oregon State errors for each of its runs, setting up Tyler Pritchard’s RBI single in the second inning and Matthew Acosta’s RBI single in the fifth.
Beller worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third, getting a strikeout and then a pop-up to end the threat. The lefty also stranded a runner in scoring position in the fifth after a leadoff double and worked around a two-out single in the seventh.
Champlain got a groundout and two fly balls in the eighth and Clarke got a strikeout, fly ball and a grounder in the ninth to earn his seventh save. Brady Shockey helped preserve the shutout with a highlight-reel catch in the ninth, robbing a home run from the Beavers’ Zack Zalesky.
Long Beach State 3, Hawaii 0: Sophomore left-hander Adam Seminaris scattered five singles and struck out seven, facing just three batters over the minimum on his way to a shutout of Hawaii in the series opener at Blair Field. It was the first complete game of Seminaris’ college career and the first of the season for LBSU (12-41, 6-16 Big West).
Seminaris retired the first 10 batters he faced in order and recorded 16 ground ball outs compared to just two in the air. He also pounded the strike zone with 70 of his 94 pitches going for strikes. He also set a tremendous pace, dispatching Hawaii (20-28, 8-14) in just 2 hours, 1 minute.
Junior Jacob Hughey paced the Long Beach offense with his fifth three-hit game of the season. The junior first baseman was 3 for 4 with a double and scored twice. Chris Jimenez and Chase Luttrell had the other two hits for LBSU and Victor Carlino logged a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to record the only RBI of the night.
The series continues Friday at 6 p.m. when Long Beach junior Nick Avila (0-5, 3.99 ERA) squares off with Hawaii’s Aaron Davenport (2-5, 4.80 ERA).
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