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Aztecs rally to take series from 'Eaters

UCI's nonconference struggles continue, but it remains solidly in second place in Big West.

April 19, 2014|By Barry Faulkner
  • UC Irvine catcher Jerry McClanahan, left, is short of a tag on San Diego State's Brad Haynal at home plate during the seventh inning in a nonconference game at Anteater Ballpark on Saturday. The Anteaters lost 4-3.
UC Irvine catcher Jerry McClanahan, left, is short of… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

With its next game six days away, the UC Irvine baseball team can use a little reflection time to spin their recent struggles, which continued Saturday with a 4-3 nonconference loss to visiting San Diego State.

Despite dropping the three-game series to the Aztecs, losing three of four games during the week and falling to 2-6 in their last eight nonconference games, the Anteaters actually might have improved their position in the Big West Conference standings by being the odd team out of the weekend fray in the nine-team conference.

The Anteaters (25-14), ranked No. 21 by Collegiate Baseball, are 8-1 in Big West games and currently sit solidly in second place, 1.5 games behind front-running Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (11-1 in conference after a weekend sweep of visiting Cal State Fullerton) and two games ahead of third-place UC Riverside (6-3).

Long Beach State is 5-4 in conference, followed by UC Santa Barbara (5-7), surprisingly scuffling Cal State Fullerton (3-6), Cal State Northridge (4-8), Hawaii and UC Davis (both 3-9).

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Coach Mike Gillespie's Anteaters visit UC Davis for a three-game series beginning Friday, before facing a four-series gauntlet of UCSB, Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State to conclude the conference schedule.

"We do not have any illusions about what lies down the road," Gillespie said. "Clearly our path to the playoffs has got to be through the conference, because it can't be with what we've done in the nonconference. We have to be good in conference."

The hosts were better than good through six innings in the finale against the Aztecs (28-12), leading, 1-0, behind senior starting pitcher Evan Brock.

But three singles and a hit batter led to a pair of runs for the visitors in the seventh and San Diego State, which is without Coach Tony Gwynn, who has been out more than a month while battling cancer, added two more runs on three singles in the eighth.

UCI, which saw a 1-0 lead turn into a 3-1 loss in the series opener on Thursday, after the Aztecs erupted for three runs in the eighth inning, are now 7-3 in one-run games in 2014.

UCI, which had eight hits, mounted a charge in the eighth against Aztecs starter Mark Seyler and closer Michael Cederoth.

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