Aztecs Rally Late to Overcome No. 21 UC Irvine 3-1
April 18, 2014
IRVINE, Calif. - San Diego rallied for a trio of runs in the top of the eighth inning and defeated No. 21 UC Irvine, 3-1, Thursday night at Anteater Ballpark. With the win the Aztecs improved to 27-11 while UCI saw its record fall to 24-13.
The contest turned into a pitchers' duel between Aztec lefty Mike Robards and Anteater senior right-hander Andrew Morales. Only RoBards would be around to see the fruits of his labors as his teammates came through in the final stages.
The game remained scoreless through the first four innings, but the bottom of the second would prove to be a pivotal moment in the contest. Back-to-back singles to open the inning put runners on first and third for the Anteaters with no outs. RoBards then got DH Jonathan Munoz to hit a squibber that dribbled toward the mound where the Aztec hurler fielded it and threw home to get the lead runner at the plate.
A walk to the next batter loaded the bases with just one out, but again RoBards came through, getting a strikeout and come-backer to extinguish the threat with no damage done.
The Anteaters did put a run on the board in the next inning, however, as a two-out triple by Connor Spencer was cashed in when Taylor Sparks doubled to left to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
UCI's Morales was masterful on the mound over the first seven innings as he allowed just three hits while walking three and striking out 11. The Aztecs did not have a man reach as far as third against him although they did have runners at first and second on two occasions, but were unable to get the hit they needed.
Still holding a 1-0 advantage, the Anteaters elected to bring on closer Sam Moore to begin the top of the eighth. Moore, who leads the nation with 15 saves, opened the inning by hitting Greg Allen with a 3-0 pitch. After a sacrifice bunt by Steven Pallares moved Allen to second, Tim Zier's grounder to third was thrown over the first baseman's head allowing Allen to come home and Zier to reach second.
With the score knotted at 1-1, Ty France was intentionally walked (for the second time in the game) before Seby Zavala line a single to right to score Zier and move France to third. Brad Haynal then singled through the left side of the infield to drive home France and give the Aztecs a 3-1 lead. Those three runs (two earned) were charged to Moore, who suffered his first blown save opportunity of the season and would take the loss to fall to 0-2.
RoBards, meanwhile, continued into the bottom of the eighth, but after a two-out single in that inning was lifted in favor of closer Michael Cederoth. The Aztec closer issued a walk to the first man he faced, but then recorded a strikeout to ended the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, UCI put its first two men on base with a walk and an infield single. A sacrifice bunt moved both runners up 90 feet, but Cederoth then got back-to-back strikeouts to end the game as he recorded his 14th save of the season.
RoBards was credited with the victory to improve to 4-3. His final line read 7.2 innings allowing a run on eight hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
San Diego State and UC Irvine will continue their three-game series Friday evening (Apr. 18) at 6:30 p.m. at Anteater Ballpark.