Sparks Hits Jackpot With Walk-Off Blast

Taylor Sparks hit his third home run of the season in Big West opener
Taylor Sparks hit his third home run of the season in Big West opener

IRVINE, Calif. --- Taylor Sparks belted a fastball off the left-field pole for a two-run, walk-off home run to lift UC Irvine to a 5-4 win against Pacific Friday night at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark.

The Anteaters were down to their final out in the bottom of the ninth, trailing 4-3 with Christian Ramirez standing on second following a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt by pinch-hitter Dillon Moyer. Sparks, who was 2 for 4 with two RBI, stepped to the plate and hit a first-pitch offering from reliever John Prato Matthews for his team-high third round-tripper of the year.

UCI jumped on the board in the bottom of the second as Connor Spencer tripled to lead off the frame and scored on an RBI grounder from Jeff Stephens for a 1-0 lead. The Anteaters then loaded the bases with one out in the third. Starter Michael Benson hit Jordan Fox with the pitch to force across Jerry McClanahan who led off the inning with a single and D.J. Crumlich, who was 2 for 4, would plate a run on an RBI fielder's choice by Spencer.

Pacific responded in the fourth as Riley Drongensen's double drove in Dustin Torchio. An error by the Anteaters on grounder by Allen Riley allowed a second run to score and Erik Lockwood hit a sharp two-out single to center to even the game.

A UCI miscue was costly in the sixth as a fielding error put Taylor Murphy on first and he would take third as Lockwood delivered again with his third single of the night. Murphy scored the go-ahead run on a groundball to second.

That would be all for Pacific as reliever Nick Hoover pitched three innings of two-hit baseball and yielded an unearned run. Jimmy Litchfield was handed the ball and held the Tigers hitless in the final 1.2 innings to earn the win and improve to 2-1. Starter Andrew Thurman pitched 4.1 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits in the no-decision.  

Matthews fell to 1-4 after 1.1 innings in relief. Pacific starter Michael Benson pitched 7.1 innings, striking out six and walking just one while giving up three runs on eight hits. Lockwood led the offense, batting 3 for 3 with an RBI.


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