RIVERSIDE, Calif. ---UC Irvine dropped its second road series after falling to UC Riverside, 7-5, Friday to open Big West action at 0-2 (16-7). The series loss against the Highlanders is the first for UCI since 2008 when the Anteaters dropped two of three games at Anteater Ballpark.
UC Riverside jumped on starter Matt Whitehouse in the bottom of the second, scoring three runs on a two-out, RBI single from Alex Rubanowitz and a two-run double by Joe Chavez.
However, the Anteaters loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the third and tied the score on run-scoring singles from Connor Spencer and Ronnie Shaeffer followed by a RBI fielder's choice from Jerry McClanahan.
After chasing starter Jacob Smigelski from the game in the fourth, Shaeffer and Taylor Sparks opened the fifth against reliever Mark Garcia with back-to-back singles and advanced a base on the sacrifice bunt from McClanahan. Shaeffer scored easily on an RBI groundout from Kris Paulino and Chris Rabago came up with the clutch two-out single to right to drive in Sparks for the 5-3 advantage.
UCI was unable to protect the lead. The Highlanders capitalized on a leadoff double from Cody Hough in the fifth to cut the lead to one at 5-4 and then took the lead for good in the seventh. Chavez hit a double, his second of the day to spark the seventh and would take third on a wild pitch. A second wild pitch on ball four to Hough tied the game, 5-5. Clayton Prestridge followed with a single to right and both runners moved up 90 feet on a balk to set the scene for David Andriese, whose sharp single through the right side would drive in the go-ahead run. Prestridge capped the scoring after plating the final run on a passed ball.
After the fifth, Garcia set down eight of the next nine batters he faced and Trevor Frank pitched a perfect ninth to earn his second save in as many days.
Whitehouse pitched four innings, giving up four runs on eight hits in the no-decision. Kyle Hooper fell to 1-1 after giving up two runs on two hits in two innings. Spencer and Shaeffer each were 2 for 4 with an RBI while Sparks also added a pair of hits. Paulino and Rabago drove in a run on one hit.
Garcia improved to 3-2 after pitching five innings and allowing two runs on five hits. Chavez led the Highlander offense, batting 3 for 5 with two RBI.
The series concludes Saturday at 2:00 p.m.