STILLWATER, Okla. – UC Irvine took the opening game of the Stillwater Super Regional 8-4 after generating three, multi-run rallies that were helped by errors and miscues by the Oklahoma State defense. The Anteaters scored eight runs with only five of them being RBI and even some of those were the result of misplays or poor fielding decisions.
Oklahoma State started things off in the first inning by capitalizing on an error themselves as sophomore Donnie Walton reached on a throwing error by UC Irvine third baseman Taylor Sparks. All-American Zach Fish hit a double down the line in left advancing Walton to third from which he would score on a groundout by Tanner Krietemeier for the early 1-0 lead.
Anteater starter Elliott Surrey would settle in from that point throwing six innings’ worth of zeros on the scoreboard while the UC Irvine offense got on track thanks to some help from the Cowboys’ defense.
Oklahoma State starter Jon Perrin had escaped the second inning scoreless thanks to a great diving catch by right fielder Conor Costello that saved a run from scoring in that frame. UC Irvine catcher Jerry McClanahan had reached base to lead-off that inning on a throwing error by Cowboys’ short stop Donnie Walton, a Perrin balk advanced McClanahan to second. A groundout advanced the red-shirt juniot to third before Costello’s diving catch on a sinking liner down the right field line prevented him from scoring.
Perrin would not have the same fortune in the fourth inning as again McClanahan started things off with a single just past the diving glove of Walton. Designated hitter Jonathan Munoz moved him over to second with a sac bunt. After getting a pop fly out, Perrin hit Kris Paulino with a pitch on a two strike count to put two runners on base and two outs.
Perrin’s first pitch to Anteater freshman Adam Alacantra was wild and in the dirt and allowed McClanahan to advance to third. The next pitch to the UC Irvine short stop was in the dirt again but Cowboys’ catcher Bryan Case let it through giving Paulino enough time to get to second but not enough to advance McClanahan home. Alacantra grounded a 3-and-0 pitch up the middle and Cowboys’ second baseman Tim Arakawa made a back-handed play but made an ill-advised late throw the first that allowed both McClanahan and Paulino to score giving UC Irvine the 2-1 lead.
Arakawa was trying to get the final out, but the ball wasn’t hit sharply and it took several steps after fielding the ball to right himself for the throw that was late. First baseman Krietemeier attempted to make the play on Paulino at home but was late.
UC Irvine junior Taylor Sparks looked to atone for his error in the first with a double to the gap in right to lead off the fifth innning. Junior Chris Robago would advance Sparks on a sac bunt, but also reached himself when Perrin mishandled the ball. Sparks scored as junior Connor Spencer lofted a single into the gap in left. McClanahan sacrificed both runners into scoring position before a pair of Perrin wild pitches scored them both to extend the Anteaters lead to 5-1.
In the sixth the Cowboys turned to the pen calling on righty reliever Trey Cobb to put a stop to the Anteaters offense that had plated five runs in the prior two innings. Immediately, the freshman was in a jam surrendering a lead off, bloop single to Paulino. After a sac bunt, Cobb walked red-shirt junior Justin Castro before Sparks’ blooped a single between Arakawa and Costello for his second hit of the game to load the bases with one out.
Oklahoma State turned to freshman righty Blake Battenfield hoping to end the Anteater rally. Paulino then scored on a suicide squeeze by Robago before Battenfield hit Spencer with a pitch to load the bases for the second time in the inning. McClanahan would then draw a four-pitch RBI walk that scored Castro to extend the UC Irvine lead to 7-1.
In the eighth, the Anteaters would tack on another run after Sparks singled for his third hit of the game, Spencer moved him to third with his second hit of the night to set up runners at the corners with two outs. Spencer took off on a delayed steal on a 1-2 count stealing second, but the throw by Case got past Arakawa allowing Sparks to steal home an extend the lead to 8-1.
The Cowboys would finally rally in the home half of the eighth as Walton led things off with a single through the right side that ricocheted off the glove of diving second baseman John Brontesma into the outfield. UC Irvine turned to righty Mitch Merten to relieve Surrey who left the game after fine outing in which he allowed no earned runs over seven innings with five strikeouts.
Fish hit a high chopper down the third base line that Sparks fielded and gunned to Brontesma looking for the double play but the freshman dropped the throw allowing both runners to reach safely. Krietemeier slapped a three-run homer to left on the first pitch he saw in the next at bat to cut the lead to 8-4 for his 10th home run on the season.
Costello then hit s slow chopper to short and beat out the throw to keep the rally alive and then Saulyer Saxon was hit by a pitch on a full count forcing another UC Irvine pitching change as southpaw Evan Manarino came in to a jam with no outs and two runners on. Manarino struck out Arakawa and then induced a double play with the bases loaded to end the threat. The junior then threw a perfect ninth to preserve the Anteaters’ victory.