UCI Baseball’s Late Game Heroics Lift Them Past the USD Toreros, 3-2

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Photo provided by UCI Athletics

The UCI baseball team (19-10, 5-7) rallied late to beat the University of San Diego Toreros (14-16-1, 9-3-1), 3-2 at Anteater Ballpark on Tuesday, April 11.

After dropping two of their last three games to the Long Beach State Dirtbags, the ‘Eaters looked to continue their mid-week success against the Toreros, who made the drive up from San Diego for their second and final meeting of the year. 

Graduate pitcher Andre Antone got the starting nod for the ‘Eaters. Antone sports a 2-0 record and looked to add another Tuesday night.

Antone posted a scoreless first frame with the assistance of some stellar defense. After a walk to lead off the game, UCI’s junior catcher Thomas McCaffery immediately negated it, blocking a ball in the dirt and gunning the runner out at second.

The first run of the game was produced by the Toreros in the top of the second inning. Junior outfielder Kevin Sim connected with an 0-2 elevated fastball driving it to the opposite field and over the right field wall for an impressive home run that gave USD a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the second.

UCI sophomore pitcher Finnegan Wall got the rock from Antone and rolled in the top of the third inning notching two strikeouts and a ground ball on his way to a scoreless inning.

UCI answered back in the bottom of the third inning, getting their rally started with a one out double off the bat of redshirt junior outfielder Luke Spillane. Once on second, McCaffery lined a 0-2 pitch into the left field gap for a single, plating Spillane. McCaffery moved up to second on a throwing error as he and junior outfielder Caden Kendle now occupied second and third. 

USD made a pitching change with only one out in the bottom of the third and runners on second and third bringing in sophomore pitcher Jack Bunnell. Bunnell proceeded to stifle the Anteaters’ rally, striking out the next two batters he faced to end the UCI threat, but not before UCI tied the game at one.

Wall and Bunnell started a pitching duel as they both posted 1-2-3 innings in the fourth. Wall was run back out for the top of the fifth where he managed another scoreless inning. However, Bunnell was relieved in the bottom of the fifth despite striking out all five batters he faced.

USD took the lead back in the top of the sixth thanks to another solo homer courtesy of junior utility man Angelo Peraza.

The ‘Eaters were the beneficiary of their own solo home run only half an inning later. True freshman standout and first baseman Anthony Martinez took a 3-2 pitch and deposited it directly over the 380 foot marker in right center field for his team leading the sixth home run of the season.

With the game rolling along, UCI and USD entered the eighth inning all knotted at two. 

UCI started their half of the inning with a walk drawn by Spillane, who then advanced to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Martinez stepped to the plate looking to deliver the biggest at bat of the night. Martinez did just that as he lined a single up the middle to score Spillane. Martinez’ clutch piece of hitting gave UCI a 3-2 lead going into the top of the ninth inning.

UCI ran out redshirt junior closer Jacob King to secure the win. King delivered as he struck two of the three batters he faced on his way to his fifth save of the year.

Martinez led the way for the ‘Eaters, knocking in two of their three runs on the night. After the game Martinez broke down his mindset at the plate. 

“I just wanted to stick to my approach, I never change my approach,” Martinez said. “I trust it and stick with it and believe the results speak for themselves.” 

Martinez has exploded as a true freshman as he leads UCI in batting average, hits, sacrifice flies, RBI’s, doubles, home runs, slugging percentage and total bases. 

When asked if he feels any extra pressure being leaned on so heavily as a freshman, Martinez said, “For sure, a lot more in the beginning, but you learn to play with it and I feel like I’ve been doing better.” 

Doing better is an understatement as Martinez is a candidate for not only Big West Freshman of the Year, but potentially Big West Player of the Year and is a huge contributor to UCI’s early success.

The Anteaters played a huge Big West matchup against top ranked UC Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara from April 14-16 at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

 Zeke Bellino is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at zbellino@uci.edu.

 Jason Garcia Escobar is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at jasonag3@uci.edu.