Zags Ninth-Inning Comeback Held Off By #15 UC Irvine
IRVINE, Calif. – A ninth-inning rally by Gonzaga University came up short Friday evening, dropping its series-opener at No. 15 UC Irvine 6-4. Clayton Eslick led the Bulldogs (8-9) with two hits and three RBI while Drew Heid also added two hits. The Anteaters (11-6) used a single run in the first inning, a five-run second inning a timely strikeout from their All-America closer to hold off the Zags.
Gonzaga missed out on a scoring opportunity in first inning as Heid led of the game with a base-hit to centerfield and later moved up to second on Andy Hunter's single to left. The next batter Mark Castellitto hit a comebacker to UCI starting pitcher Daniel Bibona who turned and fired to second in attempt to start the double play but Castellitto hustled down the line and beat the throw at first to keep the inning alive. He then stole second base to put runners on second and third with two outs. The Irvine ace held strong though, escaping the early Zags threat by striking gout Cameron Edman.
Irvine picked up a run in the first on a two-out RBI single and then put the game out of reach with a five-run second inning. The Anteaters got to Martin the second using five hits highlighted by a three-run double to eventually lead to 6-0 lead after two complete.
Both starting pitchers returned to form the rest of the way though as Martin held a very potent UCI offense in check over the next four innings before giving way to Jacob Hiatt in the seventh. Bibona was just as impressive, keeping the Zags off balance the rest of his outing before he came out after the eighth.
Just had they did in the 3-2 loss to BYU on Tuesday, the Bulldogs did battle back as they eventually brought the potential tying run to the plate in the ninth only to have the opposing team come up big on the final play of the game. Eslick put the Zags on the board in the seventh with his two-out RBI triple to make it a 6-1 game at that point. Bibona exited after the eighth, giving way to the Irvine bullpen. The inning started with Andy Hunter reaching on an error and one batter later pinch-hitter Billy Moon singled. After Royce Bolinger lined a rocket to right to the left fielder for the innings second out, Eslick doubled to the right centerfield gap to score both Hunter and Moon and make it a 6-3 ball game. The Zags again went to the bench as Chris Sturdivant stepped in and lined a single to right center to bring Eslick home to cut it to 6-4. With Ernesto Ortiz coming to the plate as the potential tying run, the Anteaters went to the bullpen to bring in two-time All-America closer Eric Pettis to strike out Ortiz and preserve the 6-4 win.
Martin finished with six strikeouts in six innings but did suffer the loss after allowing six runs while Bibona allowed one run and struck out 10 in eight innings.
The Bulldogs will send left-hander Ryan Carpenter to the mound in the second game of the series 1 p.m. tomorrow.