IRVINE, Calif. --- Pinch-hitter Ryan Cooper's bunt up the first base line allowed pinch runner Justin Castro to plate the game-winning run in the ninth as UC Irvine edged UC Davis, 5-4 Friday at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark.
Jerry McClanahan drew a walk to lead off the ninth against reliever Max Cordy and Castro took second on the sacrifice bunt by Scott Gottschling. Kris Paulino was to be intentionally walked, but Cordy threw the ball to the backstop on the second pitch, allowing Castro to advance to third on the wild pitch. After the intentional walk, Cooper bunted the 0-1 pitch. First baseman Nick Lynch fielded it cleanly and connected with catcher Izaak Silva. However, Castro slid under the tag and was called safe for the game-winning run.
UCI gave starter Andrew Thurman a 2-0 lead in the first. Chris Rabago hit a leadoff single and scored on Taylor Sparks' clutch hit through the left side. Ronnie Shaeffer extended the inning with a shot off the glove of Lynch for a single. Sparks, who had stolen second, was waved home and plated the second run.
The Aggies cut the lead in half in the second on back-to-back doubles by Lynch and John Williams. UC Davis then took a 3-2 lead in the third. Mike Mazzara slapped a two-out single to right and Paul Politi doubled in the game-tying run. Thurman looked to be out of the inning on a grounder to short but Rabago's throw to first pulled Connor Spencer off the bag for an error that allowed Politi to score.
McClanahan sparked the Anteater fourth with a leadoff double and scored on the sacrifice fly from Paulino to tie the game at 3-3.
The see-saw battle continued in the fifth as the Aggies reclaimed the lead on an RBI hit from Lynch, who was 3 for 3 at the plate to lead UCD.
Sparks punched back for the Anteaters with a solo home run off starter Harry Stanwyck in the sixth, his seventh round-tripper of the year to tie the game at 4-4.
Thurman pitched 7.2 innings and allowed four runs (three earned) in the no-decision. The right-hander worked himself out of a bases-loaded situation in the seventh and then had a runner reach third with two outs in the eighth. However, Jimmy Litchfield entered in relief and induced a grounder to first to leave the go-ahead run stranded.
Mitch Merten pitched a scoreless ninth and was credited with the win after an inning of no-hit baseball. Merten, who struck out one and walked two, improved to 2-0.
Sparks paced the offense, batting 2 for 4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Spencer and Rabago also added two hits apiece for UCI.
Cordy, who did not allow a hit in 2/3 innings, fell to 4-5 with the loss.
The series continues Saturday as Matt Whitehouse will face Spencer Koopmans at 1:00 p.m.