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HomeSportsBaseballUCI Baseball’s Comeback Attempt Falls Short Against Kansas State, 6-3

UCI Baseball’s Comeback Attempt Falls Short Against Kansas State, 6-3

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The UCI Baseball team (23-13, 7-8) was defeated by the Kansas State Wildcats (26-16, 9-6), 6-3, at Anteater Ballpark on Friday, April 21.

The ‘Eaters entered Friday night riding a wave of momentum from their two game win streak. Anteater redshirt junior left-handed starting pitcher Nick Pinto looked to extend the streak against Kansas State.

At the top of the second inning, K-State looked to take the lead when redshirt sophomore catcher Raphael Pelletier was at bat with two runners in scoring position. Pelletier hit a powerful single up center field, securing the RBI as his teammate, sophomore infielder Kaelen Culpepper, scored the first run of the game. Pinto exited the second inning without allowing another run after a flyout from Wildcat senior right fielder Cash Rugely.

Kansas State extended its lead after junior shortstop Nick Goodwin blasted a two-run homer to left field, sparking a 3-0 lead.

After giving up the home run, UCI head coach Ben Orloff approached Pinto at the mound. Despite concerns, Coach Orloff decided to keep him in the game, and Pinto finished the inning with a ground ball to second base that led to a double play.

At the bottom of the fourth inning, Pinto was pulled from the game in favor of graduate student right-handed relief pitcher Andre Antone. He closed the inning, striking out sophomore center fielder Brendan Jones.

Going into the fifth inning, the ‘Eaters struggled to put points on the board. At a 1-2 count disadvantage, redshirt junior outfielder Nick Spillane hit a much-needed soaring triple to right center for two RBIs, cutting the Wildcat lead down to one point. 

UCI continued its comeback effort with an RBI from junior right fielder Caden Kendle, tying the game at 3-3. This awoke the Anteater crowd, sparking an electric atmosphere to help the Anteaters rally to victory.

In the top of the seventh inning, K-State halted UCI’s momentum after Culpepper crushed a homer to left field. After regaining the lead, Kansas State replaced senior pitcher Owen Boerema with sophomore right-handed relief pitcher Tyson Neighbors at the bottom of the eighth inning.

UCI was unable to score in either the seventh or eighth inning, leaving one last inning to attempt a comeback. Unfortunately, the ninth inning for the Anteaters quickly saw the bases loaded with only one out. Pressure mounted on Anteater Ballpark. One run could have ended the game. 

Anteater redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Tanner Brooks stepped up, striking out Wildcat senior first baseman Roberto Pena. 

However, an untimely RBI from K-State senior left fielder Cole Johnson extended the deficit to 5-3. The run was shortly followed up by a wild pitch from Brooks that brought in an insurance run to stretch the lead to 6-3. 

Neighbors sealed the game for Kansas State, striking out Spillane. The ‘Eaters comeback attempt fell short, running out of gas to close the game out.

A late game collapse by the Anteaters proved to be the decisive factor in winning or losing the game. UCI found themselves down 1-0 in the series against Kansas State and lost the series 2-1, with a 6-4 defeat on April 23 and a 7-1 victory on April 24.  

Donnell Fuller is a Sports Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. He can be reached at ddfuller@uci.edu.