No. 19 UC Irvine Takes Series Opener Against Gauchos

Chris Rabago had a career-high four RBI for the 'Eaters

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. --- UC Irvine used a seven-run sixth to take the lead and never looked back, defeating UC Santa Barbara, 14-9, Friday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

Neither starting pitcher was particularly effective with both starters giving up a combined 15 runs. Andrew Thurman lasted four innings, his shortest stint this season, and allowed six runs on nine hits while striking out three but did not figure in the decision. Counterpart, Austin Pettibone, gave up nine runs on eight hits in 5.1 innings and suffered the loss to fall to 6-3.

Both teams jumped on the board in the first inning. For the 'Eaters, Chris Rabago reached first on an error and Dominique Taylor followed with a single. However, both runners were erased at first on consecutive pickoff moves by Pettibone. Connor Spencer drove a hit up the middle and Taylor Sparks took the first pitch from Pettibone deep to left-center for his eighth home run of the year to give UCI a 2-0 lead.

The Gauchos wasted no time in the bottom of the inning as Joey Epperson singled to lead off for UCSB and was tripled in by Brandon Twinkwon. Twinkwon would plate the tying run on an RBI hit from Woody Woodward.

UCSB took the lead in the third, getting a leadoff triple from Epperson, who scored on Twinkwon's grounder to short for the one-run edge.

The Gauchos widened their margin in the fourth, scoring three runs, all with two-outs. With runners on second and third, Ryan Clark hit a two-run single to right field and would later cross the plate on a double by Epperson, who was 4 for 5 with three runs scored for the Gauchos.

The Anteaters rallied, cutting the lead in half in the fifth. Scott Gottschling drove a 1-2 pitch to the left-centerfield fence for a double and eventually scored on a grounder to second from Jeff Stephens.

Pettibone began to struggle in the sixth. Taylor drew a leadoff walk and Spencer was hit by the pitch. Sparks slapped an infield single to third, loading the bases for Ronnie Shaeffer who coaxed a run-scoring base on balls. Jerry McClanahan followed with a hard two-run single up the middle to tie the game and Ryan Cooper delivered a pinch-hit double to give the Anteaters the 7-6 lead. Pettibone was lifted for Greg Mahle but Stephens and Rabago hit consecutive run-scoring doubles to extend UCI's lead to 10-6.

UCI loaded the bases again in the seventh and Gottschling was plunked by the pitch to force across Sparks, who had led off the inning with a single to center. Mahle gave way to Jared Wilson and Grant Palmer worked a walk against the right-hander before Rabago cleared the bases with a double to right-centerfield as the Anteaters built a 14-6 advantage.

Evan Brock pitched a shutout fifth and handed the ball to Mitch Merten for a scoreless sixth. Merten surrendered an RBI double in the seventh but limited the Gauchos to a single run in 1.2 innings. Jimmy Litchfield pitched the final 2.1 frames, yielding two runs on three hits while fanning two.

Brock was credited with the win to improve to 2-1 while Rabago paced the offense with a career-high four RBI on two hits. Stephens posted three runs batted in on two hits while Sparks was 4 for 5 with two RBI. McClanahan also drove in a pair of runs for the 'Eaters as UCI improved to 29-13 overall and 11-5 in the Big West.

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