SAN DIEGO, Calif. --- Several Anteaters had standout performances in an 11-3 victory for No. 23 UC Irvine Tuesday at San Diego. UCI improved to 21-8 overall and pulled to 5-5 in road contests while San Diego fell to 19-13 on the year.
Scott Gottschling drove in a career-high four runs while going 3 for 4 at the plate. Taylor Sparks was 3 for 4 with a double, triple and home run, falling a single shy of the hitting for the cycle. The third baseman, who was intentionally walked twice, drove in three and was responsible for the game-winning RBI in the first, lacing a two-run double to put the 'Eaters on the board. Connor Spencer had a perfect day, batting 4 for 4 with an RBI and Chris Rabago posted three hits and two runs batted in as the leadoff hitter.
Mitch Merten faced the minimum through the first four innings before yielding a one-out home run in the fifth and went on to collect the win to improve to 2-1. The right-hander struck out two and held San Diego to two runs on five hits while walking one.
UCI loaded the bases in the top of the first on a double by Dominique Taylor, a single from Spencer and a base on balls issued to Ronnie Shaeffer. Sparks took advantage with a two-run double down the left-field line. Gottschling then delivered with the bunt single to score Shaeffer to give UCI a three-run edge and chase starter Louie Lechich from the game.
Chris Rabago hit his first home run of the year, hitting a 2-1 pitch to left to widen UCI's lead to 5-0 in the fourth. Sparks led off the fifth by belting a triple off the centerfield wall in the top of the fifth and Gottschling's single up the middle tacked on another run for the Anteaters.
San Diego got on the board with one out in the fifth as Dillon Haupt hit a solo homerun to left-centerfield. Connor Joe then drew a walk from Merten. Andrew Daniel hit a grounder that was headed towards a waiting Grant Palmer for the double-play, but the ball hit the umpire for an infield single to put runners on first and second. Lechich, now filling the designated hitter's role, singled up the middle to drive in Joe and cut the lead to four at 6-2. Merten then handed the ball off to reliever Evan Brock, who struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
UCI loaded the bases for a third time in the sixth with the Toreros intentionally walking Sparks for the second time. Gottschling came up clutch and hit a clean two-run single to left. The scoring continued in the seventh as UCI picked up a run on an error by reliever Jack Shannon and a run-scoring double off the bat of Spencer for a 10-3 lead.
Sparks capped the scoring with his sixth home run of the year in the eighth.
Lechich fell to 1-1 with the loss after giving up three runs on three hits in 1/3 innings.
UCI resumes Big West play this weekend against Cal State Northridge at Anteater Ballpark.