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UCI wins series finale over Cal Poly

College Baseball

Morales blanks Mustangs through seven strong innings and 16 hits back crucial 11-1 Big West triumph.

May 12, 2013|By Barry Faulkner

IRVINE — Six days after undergoing unexpected root canal surgery, UC Irvine junior pitcher Andrew Morales made the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo hitters experience roughly the equivalent of a trip to the dentist.

Morales, recorded 10 of his first 12 outs with strikeouts and pitched seven shutout innings to help the host Anteaters earn an 11-1 victory over the Mustangs in the rubber game of a crucial Big West Conference baseball series on Sunday.

With the win, Morales, a transfer from Rio Hondo Community College in his first Division I season, improved to 10-0 and lowered his earned-run average to 1.79. He finished with a career-high 10 strikeouts, walked one and allowed four hits.

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Morales did not allow a runner to reach third base and only two reached second. He retired the final eight he faced to end a streak of two straight starts without a decision.

The victory also propelled UCI (31-16, 13-8 in conference), ranked No. 23 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Assn. as well as USA Today/ESPN, into sole possession of third place with six conference games remaining.

UCI Coach Mike Gillespie has said a top-three finish will be required to earn an at-large berth into an NCAA Regional. And, with the help of Morales and a 16-hit outburst, UCI moved ahead of Cal Poly (33-16, 12-9), ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball, in the Big West chase pack.

Cal State Fullerton (41-8, 17-4), which plays host to UCI in a three-game series beginning Friday, leads the conference, four games ahead of Cal State Northridge (31-20, 15-8).

There was no chasing down UCI on Sunday, as all nine starters had at least one hit and one run batted in to put things out of reach early. UCI scored two in the first, four in the second, one in the third and four in the fourth to stake Morales to an uncommon windfall.

Sophomore first baseman Connor Spencer had hits in his first three at-bats and drove in two in the first and one in the second with a pair of doubles. He finished three for five with three RBIs and remains atop Big West hitters with a .385 average.

Sophomore third baseman Taylor Sparks was three for five with one RBI and one run scored. In 21 conference games, Sparks is batting .430 and leads all players with six home runs, 27 RBIs and 37 hits (14 of which are for extra bases) against Big West competition.

Junior center fielder Dominique Taylor was two for four with one RBI and two runs for UCI, which had six consecutive hits to fuel its four-run fourth.

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