College Baseball: 'Eaters squeeze Aggies

UCI wins it in the ninth on a safety squeeze bunt, after Taylor's home run ties UC Davis on Friday.

April 26, 2013|By Barry Faulkner
  • UC Irvine's Taylor Sparks gets a base hit during the first inning against UC Davis in a Big West Conference game on Friday. Sparks' base hit allowed teammate Chris Rabago to score the first run of the game.
UC Irvine's Taylor Sparks gets a base hit during… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

IRVINE — There was the bunt and the blast, but UC Irvine's 5-4 Big West Conference baseball victory over visiting UC Davis on Friday would not have happened without the backbone of Anteaters starting pitcher Andrew Thurman.

Thurman, who threw 73 of his 105 pitches for strikes, left the bases loaded in the seventh to keep the game deadlocked at 4-4. It was, perhaps, his best moment in a game in which he had both good and bad stretches.

The blast, a solo home run by sophomore third baseman Taylor Sparks to lead off the UCI sixth inning, had pulled the hosts (26-12, 8-5 in conference) even after the Aggies (15-24, 3-10) had twice rallied to take the lead.

The bunt was a successful safety squeeze executed by pinch-hitter Ryan Cooper, who plated the winning run with one out in the ninth. Cooper's heroics were set up when Jerry McClanahan walked to start the inning. Pinch-runner Justin Castro went to second on Scott Gottchsling's sacrifice bunt and went to third on a wild pitch issued during an intentional walk of Kris Paulino that put runners on the corners.


Cooper, who had not had a hit in his previous 24 at-bats, dating back to March 8, squared to bunt, but took the first pitch, a breaking ball by UC Davis closer Max Cordy. Cooper, who had a pinch-hit run batted in on a groundout in Tuesday's loss at San Diego State, then popped a bunt toward first base on the next pitch and a charging Nick Lynch flipped the ball home to catcher Izaak Silva, whose tag on a sliding Castro was late.

Thurman was not involved in the decision, but UCI Coach Mike Gillepsie said he battled well enough to win. Instead, the win went to reliever Mitch Merten, who walked two in the ninth, but wriggled off the hook by striking out John Williams to end the inning.

Thurman did some wriggling of his own in the aforementioned seventh, when he allowed a leadoff single, then loaded the bases with two outs by issuing a walk and hitting a batter. But Thurman, who allowed a season-worst 11 hits in 7 2/3 innings, induced a grounder to shortstop Chris Rabago, who stepped on second for an inning-ending forceout.

Thurman walked one and struck out four and one of the four runs he allowed was unearned.

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