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UCI Baseball fights their way against UCLA in student filled 9-6 game

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UCI Baseball worked effectively into an exciting 9-6 win against the UCLA Bruins at Anteater Stadium on May 7. 

Filled and buzzing with students for the highly anticipated game, the ‘Eaters had a solid team dynamic against the fighting UCLA Bruins to secure the win. Starting off the first inning, UCI jumped into an early lead with senior infielder Jo Oyama scorching a run-batted-in (RBI) single in his first at bat of the game. UCLA’s freshman starting pitcher Landon Stump attempted to regain control of the inning but walked two more batters to load the bases. Hitting senior catcher Thomas McCaffrey gave the Anteaters another run. 

In the second inning, UCI kept the Bruins at bay with stellar defense and pitching. Right-handed sophomore Riley Kelly’s pitching left the inning with two pop flys and a groundout, leaving only one runner on base. 

The ‘Eaters continued their dominant hitting into the bottom of the second, loading the bases early on a pair of walks and an outfield error from the Bruins. As three fielders crashed into one another in an attempt to catch a flyball, hit by redshirt junior designated hitter Woody Hadeen. This error proved costly, as junior third-baseman Dub Gleed knocked a two run RBI ground rule double to left field that advanced the game 4-0. 

From there, the hits continued as shortly thereafter redshirt junior infielder Will Bermudez scorched a bases clearing double to right field, advancing the Anteaters to a 6-0 lead before the third inning even began. 

This large lead didn’t stop the Bruins from quitting, as UCLA went on to load the bases in the third, yet they were not able to capitalize on the moment. In the fourth inning, attempts by both teams were made to continue or gain a lead to no avail. However, UCLA continued their fierce determination to put up a fight against the Anteaters, as the Bruins collected an astonishing 5-run inning in the fifth. This lead began with freshman hitter Roman Martin — who came into the game to pinch hit for junior catcher/first baseman Jack Holman — where Martin left his mark with a powerful three run home run to right center.

Shortly after, the Bruins were able to collect a pair of singles to advance their score to 6-5. However, this shocking inning did not stop the fighting ‘Eaters, who returned to offense by collecting a solid 2 runs, with Oyama reaching base after a fielder’s choice error and getting an RBI, just as fellow senior outfielder Jacob Stinson scored the other run on a wild pitch to home, pushing the lead 7-5.

UCI Baseball’s head coach Ben Orloff spoke post game regarding the team’s state after UCLA’s 5-run inning stating: “[The team] just tried to keep playing…I think we kind of had control of the game before that [inning]. So I think for us to score two after giving up five was critical for getting us back on track,” Orloff quoted. 

This certainly helped the dominating ‘Eaters, as they earned another run in the sixth inning, with junior right-fielder Chase Call hitting an RBI double to extend the teams lead to 9-5. The game optioned a small family reunion for Call, as his younger brother Phoenix played left field for the opposing Bruins. “It’s a feeling that I will never, ever be able to describe. I look up to him, even though he’s my little brother…I mean he’s just my best friend, so it’s just like the coolest feeling to play against him. It’s just like playing wiffle ball in the backyard,” Call said when asked what it meant to play against his brother. 

Following the sixth, UCI freshman left-handed pitcher Ricky Ojeda was able to keep UCLA at bay with a scoreless 3.2 innings. However, UCLA attempted to gain traction in the ninth inning, when junior second baseman Duce Gourson smashed a homerun to center field off of UCI graduate right-handed pitcher and closer Ricky Tibbett. Tibbett moved past this jitter and collected the final three outs to close the game 9-5. 

“This is just a great group. We’ve never had a group that just clicked so well together. It’s just a great group of guys [where] all of our main focus is winning,” Call stated, recalling the team’s steller dynamic post game. Call reflected how the teams  mentality was especially held during this game, “Plays with a chip on [their] shoulders” when playing against a ‘big school,’ resulting in the team “Really, really, really, [wanting] to beat them every single year,” Call remarked. 

Benjamin Flores is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at floresbt@uci.edu 

Edited by Phillip Lemus and Annabelle Aguirre