STILLWATER, Okla. —
The UC Irvine Anteaters entered Friday’s opener coming off an upset of the No. 1 overall seed Oregon State. They were able to put themselves in good position to pull another as they took control of the game in the middle innings and held off a late Oklahoma State rally in a 8-4 victory.
“They pitched well. Their leadoff hitter (Taylor) Sparks proved why he was high draft pick yesterday,” OSU coach Josh Holliday said. “They won the middle innings.”
The Cowboys took the lead in the first inning. Donnie Walton reached on an error with one out. Zach Fish hit a ball off the left field wall for a double. Tanner Krietemeier drove in Walton with a groundout to second base.
The Anteaters had a chance to even the score the next inning. Jerry McClanahan reached on an error and advanced to second on a balk. He was stranded at third when Conor Costello made a diving catch to end the inning. In the third, Taylor Sparks hit a double that was just out of centerfielder Gage Green’s reach. Pitcher Jon Perrin got two ground balls to get out of the inning.
Oklahoma State didn’t get another hit off UC Irvine’s starter Elliott Surrey until Fish doubled with two outs in the third. Krietemeier followed with a ground out to end the inning.
After setting the Anteaters down in order in the first, Perrin had to deal with baserunners the next four innings. In the fourth, OSU’s ace wasn’t able to escape unscathed. McClanahan led off with a single. With two outs, Kris Paulino was hit by a pitch. A wild pitch and passed ball moved the runners to second and third. Adam Alcantara brought them home with a hard hit grounder to second.
The Anteaters piled on in the fifth inning. Sparks hit his second double to lead off the inning. Perrin was unable to field a sacrifice bunt which put runners on the corners. Connor Spencer drove in Sparks with a single to left. Two wild pitches by Perrin allowed two more to score, giving UC Irvine a 5-1 advantage. OSU’s ace had only thrown three in his previous 20 appearances. Perrin’s night was over after the fifth after giving up five runs (three earned) on five hits, walked three hit one and struck out one.
“I didn’t handle it well, tonight and that’s one me,” Perrin said. “We’re going to have handle it better tomorrow if we want to win.”
Trey Cobb took over in the sixth and the Anteaters continued where they left off. Paulino hit a leadoff single. A walk and a single loaded the bases. Blake Battenfield relieved Cobb and allowed a squeeze bunt which scored a run. He hit and walked the next two batters to allow another run. Alex Hackerott came in and finished the inning.
Surrey continued to be solid as Fish’s doubles were the only hits he allowed through five innings andhad a stretch of seven straight retired that ended in the sixth as Donnie Walton led off with a single. The first inning was the only inning that OSU had more than one base runner.
Oklahoma State tried to rally in the sixth. Krietemeier followed Walton’s single with one of his own up the middle. Costello struck out and Aaron Cornell flied out to end the inning.
Surrey pitched seven innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits, walked two and struck out five. Mitch Merten took over and didn’t record an out. Fish reached when Sparks made a bad throw. Krietemeier hit a three-run home run to left to cut the lead. Conor Costello hit an infield single to short. Then Sauyler Saxon was hit by a pitch. Merten was pulled for Evan Manarino and he put a quick end to the rally.
Tim Arakawa struck out. After Craig McConaughy reached on a fielder’s choice, Bryan Case grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Oklahoma State will try to even the series at 9 p.m. Saturday.
“We’ve (come back) a lot,” Fish said. “I’m not worried. If we do what we have all year, continue to fight, we will do good tomorrow.”
Three UC Irvine players drafted
UC Irvine had three players taken in the MLB Draft Thursday and Friday.
Taylor Sparks was picked No. 58 overall in the second round by the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. Saturday’s starting pitcher Andrew Morales was picked 71st overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in the Competitive Balance B Round. Connor Spencer was picked Friday in the eighth round at 242 overall by the New York Yankees.