IRVINE, Calif. --- Pinch-runner Justin Castro stole second to put the tying run in scoring position with two outs in the bottom of the ninth but UC Irvine was unable to capitalize, falling to USC, 5-4, Wednesday at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark.
Christian Ramirez tripled in Jeff Stephens, shaving USC's two-run lead to one in the eighth before Connor Spencer would punch a two-out single in the ninth for the Anteaters. The loss snaps a five-game winning streak as UCI falls to 14-9 on the season.
Jimmy Litchfield, making his first start of the year, gave up one hit in two scoreless innings before giving way to the bullpen in the third. Jordan Fox's triple scored Tommy Reyes to put UCI on the board in the bottom of the first and an error on third baseman Adam Landecker allowed Fox to score for the 2-0 lead.
USC struck back in the third against reliever Mitch Merten. Garret Houts tripled in James Roberts from first and Garrett Stubbs followed with his first home run of the year to put USC on top, 3-2.
The Anteater clawed back in the fifth. A leadoff walk was issued to Reyes by Bobby Wheatley and Stephens was intentionally walked with two outs to put runners on first and second. Roberts was unable to handle Ramirez's groundball as Reyes came around to plate the tying run.
An error in the top of the sixth proved to be costly for UCI. A leadoff walk to Matt Foat was followed by a groundball to Reyes, who was unable to hold onto the ball as USC put runners on first and second. Back-to-back singles by Brandon Garcia and Dante Flores drove in the go-ahead runs as USC took a 5-3 advantage.
Phillip Ferragamo (2-2) suffered the loss despite striking out four and holding USC hitless in two innings of relief. Ramirez led UCI with an RBI on two hits while Fox, and Stephens also added an RBI apiece. Mark Trentacosta gave up an unearned run while Nick Hoover, Evan Brock and Race Parmenter combined for 3.2 shutout innings.
Matt Munson won for the Trojans, improving to 2-0 on the mound after limiting UCI to one hit in 1.1 innings of relief. Martin Viramontes picked up the save, striking out two in two innings.
UC Irvine opens Big West Conference action this Friday against Pacific at 6:30 p.m.