The UCI Baseball team (36-17, 17-11) dominated the UC Riverside Highlanders (11-39, 5-23), 28-1, at Anteater Ballpark on Thursday, May 25.
UCI began their trip to the NCAA regional tournament Thursday night with a crucial opening game against UC Riverside. UCI once again gave the starting nod to their reliable redshirt senior pitcher Michael Stanford.
UCI jumped on the Highlanders early with two walks and an opposite field double, off the bat of junior outfielder Caden Kendle, who loaded the bases in the bottom of the first. Sophomore shortstop Dub Gleed capitalized on the opportunity, smashing a two runs-batted-in (RBI) single of his own to give the ‘Eaters a 2-0 lead.
Gleed repeated his at bat in the first inning during the bottom of the third as he again drove a baseball down the line for a double. He came around and scored as the very next batter, junior catcher Thomas McCaffrey doubled, switching places with Gleed with only one out. Another walk put two runners on base with redshirt junior outfielder Luke Spillane stepping to the plate. Spillane proceeded to crush a homerun off of the scoreboard into left field, plating three more runs and growing UCI’s lead to 6-1.
UCI scratched across an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth.
The Anteaters offense looked dynamic despite getting some help from the UCR pitching staff in breaking the game open in the bottom of the fifth. UCR pitching walked seven batters and hit one in the inning. UCI sprinkled in a bunt single from junior infielder Jo Oyama. Gleed also secured an RBI single from Gleed and another double, this time with an RBI attached from McCaffrey. When the smoke finally cleared, UCI had added nine runs at the bottom of the fifth to the scoreboard as the ‘Eaters now ballooned their lead to 16-1.
Stanford’s last inning was the top of the sixth, but the senior righty left his mark as he punched in a 1-2-3 inning, notching two punchouts. Stanford ended what was an exceptional night, going six innings while striking out seven. All the while he allowed zero earned runs.
The ‘Eater offense was jump-started in the bottom of the sixth by a double from McCaffrey who completed baseball’s version of a triple-double as he notched his third of the night. A single and two more walks eventually turned into three more Anteater runs, putting the score at an astonishing 19-1.
UCI’s offense caught fire again in the bottom of the eighth as Spillane tripled to kick off the inning. Redshirt sophomore infielder Will Bermudez decided to join the hit parade as well, doubling home Spillane. A hit by pitch and RBI single from junior outfielder Jacob Stinson keep the line moving to Gleed, who picked up his fourth hit and fifth RBI of the day as he smacked a single through the right side. This put two runners on for sophomore catcher Blake Penso. Penso smacked a 3-2 fastball over the left field fence on a line to send the UCI dugout into a frenzy in a moment that felt like it belonged on the big screen. However, the ‘Eaters were still not done as Spillane stepped to the plate again for the second time in the inning. He smoked an RBI double into the right center game and collected his second extra base hit and RBI inning. Not to be outdone, Bermudez followed with his second hit and RBI of the inning capping UCI’s scoring at a school record 28 runs and securing a 28-1 victory.
It’s easy to commend the Anteater offense when looking at the astonishing 28 runs they put up on the scoreboard; however, the Anteater’s true advantage was on the mound. Four pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts, three hits and zero earned runs over the course of the game.
The Anteaters looked to carried their momentum in the series on Friday, May 26 and Saturday, May 27 at home at Anteater Ballpark completing the sweep of the Highlander’s.
Zeke Bellino is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.