College Roundup: UC Irvine Stuns Texas Christian

UC Irvine beats TCU
Photo by Jamm Aquino

Three key storylines from around college baseball Saturday night.

Strike One: Anteaters Feast On Frogs

Before Saturday's game against No. 1 Texas Christian, UC Irvine honored the 2007 iteration of the Anteaters—a team that made an unlikely run to the College World Series and brought the program to Omaha for the very first time.

It was appropriate, then, that the 2017 Anteaters followed up that celebration with a special achievement of their own.

On the heels of an 11-2 victory over the Horned Frogs on Friday, UC Irvine came up victorious yet again Saturday, dealing the country's top team its first series loss of the season in a 6-3 win.

In support of freshman righthander Cole Spear (5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K), the Anteaters jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first, getting to talented TCU freshman lefthander Nick Lodolo early. Junior third baseman Cole Kreuter opened the scoring with a two-run home run, and first baseman Adrian Damla and left fielder Jake Hazard both followed with RBI doubles.

HOW THE TOP 25 FARED
(1) Texas Christian: lost, 6-3, at UC Irvine
(2) Florida State: swept DH vs. Boston College, 11-1 and 13-0
(3) Florida: split DH vs. Seton Hall, lost 3-2 (13), won 4-3
(4) Louisville: won, 8-2, vs. Pittsburgh
(5) Oregon State: won, 8-4, vs. Ball State
(6) Louisiana State: won, 12-5, vs. Wichita State
(7) Cal State Fullerton: won, 4-3, vs. Gonzaga
(8) East Carolina: swept DH vs. Charlotte, 10-7 and 3-0
(9) Clemson: won, 6-5, vs. Notre Dame
(10) South Carolina: won, 5-2, vs. Michigan State
(11) Arizona: won, 25-3, vs. Hartford
(12) Washington: split DH vs. Indiana State, won 8-0, lost 5-3
(13) Virginia: split DH at (17) North Carolina, won 2-1, lost 12-2
(14) Texas Tech: lost, 3-2, vs. Texas-San Antonio
(15) Louisiana-Lafayette: won, 6-1, vs. St. Peter's
(16) Stanford: PPD at Rice
(17) North Carolina: split DH vs. (13) Virginia, lost 2-1, won 12-2
(18) Coastal Carolina: swept DH vs. Illinois, won 3-2 and 6-0
(19) Georgia Tech: won, 7-5, at Miami in 11 innings
(20) North Carolina State: split DH at Wake Forest, won 8-5 and lost 6-5 (11)
(21) Mississippi: won, 5-0, vs. Furman
(22) St. John’s: split DH vs. Liberty, won 4-2 and lost 7-6
(23) Oklahoma State: PPD vs. South Dakota State
(24) Baylor: PPD vs. Houston
(25) Texas A&M: suspended in 9th, 2-2, vs. Brown

Lodolo would eventually settle down, retiring his last 14 batters in a five-inning start. Meanwhile, the Frogs kept applying pressure offensively. A Nolan Brown home run in the seventh brought TCU within one run of tying.

But the Anteaters tacked on a pair of insurance runs against TCU freshman righthander Charles King in the bottom of the seventh, and closer Calvin Faucher worked a clean ninth to earn his sixth save.

The win propelled UC Irvine to a 9-4 record. The Anteaters have now won six in a row after a 1-3 showing in the Tony Gwynn Classic. TCU fell to 11-3 and will try to avoid a sweep Sunday.

Strike Two: Wake Forest claims series against Wolfpack

For the first time since 2002, Wake Forest won a series over North Carolina State, splitting Saturday's doubleheader and winning the second game in walk-off, extra-inning fashion. Incidentally, 2002 was also the last year the Demon Deacons hosted an NCAA regional.

While it's premature to project Wake Forest as a host this season, what's clear is that the Demon Deacons (12-5, 2-1, ACC) are playing at a high level. The Deacons have now won nine out of their last 10 games, including a midweek win over No. 18 Coastal Carolina and now a series win over the No. 20 Wolfpack.

Saturday's doubleheader was tightly contested. The Deacons could've conceivably swept the series, as they jumped out to a 5-1 lead in Saturday's first game, spoiling lefthander Brian Brown's return to N.C. State's rotation. But the Wolfpack rallied for three runs in the fifth and another four in the sixth to win 8-5.

The second game was almost a similar story, as the Demon Deacons again jumped out to an early 5-0 lead. Wake Forest junior righthander Donnie Sellers dealt for seven scoreless frames but ran into trouble in the eighth, allowing a run, then loading the bases for closer Griffin Roberts to contend with. Roberts, who hadn't allowed an earned run on the season, surrendered a grand slam to N.C. State's Will Wilson, tying the game at 5-5.

But the Demon Deacons found a way to win in extras, as junior center fielder Stuart Fairchild led off the 11th with a triple and came around to score the winning run on a sacrifice fly from third baseman Johnny Aiello.

"I was just looking for a pitch in the zone I could do some damage on," Fairchild told wakeforestsports.com. "He was throwing me fastballs that at-bat, and that was the pitch I hit … I was just trying to stay within and put a good swing on it."

One reason for Wake Forest's early success is the depth of its pitching staff—possibly the deepest staff in head coach Tom Walter's tenure. Sellers, in particular, has been a steadying force on Sundays and gives the Deacons a chance to win with a fastball that touches the mid-90s and a swing-and-miss breaking ball.

Sellers was a reliever for Wake Forest as a sophomore, but the emergence of Roberts as closer and freshman Morgan McSweeney as a dependable reliever have allowed the Deacons to start him.

"He's really throwing the ball well," Walter said before the series. "Last year, when Donnie was pitching out of the bullpen, I think he would just get in those situations where he'd try to throw it as hard as he could and wasn't focused on pitching. And now that he's starting, he's focused more on pitching and making pitches and throwing three pitches for strikes at any time in the count.

"And he's taken to that better than we could've hoped at this point in the year, and he's maintained his velocity, and he's turning into a real good starting pitcher."

Strike Three: Roadrunners Rally Past Red Raiders

Sophomore lefthander Steven Gingery was cruising for No. 14 Texas Tech, dazzling through eight scoreless innings before it started to unravel in the ninth.

Gingery exited with two on and two outs and a slim two-run lead; the Red Raiders needed just one more out to seal the win and clinch the series. After lefthander Parker Mushinski proceeded to walk the bases loaded, senior Texas-San Antonio catcher Mason George stepped to the plate against reliever John McMillon and drilled a double off the center field wall to clear the bases.

Just like that, the Roadrunners jumped ahead, 3-2, and that lead would hold as junior righthander Chris Muller worked a scoreless ninth for his second save of the year.

The win forced a rubber game and lifted the Roadrunners to 8-6 on the season after they just narrowly lost to the Red Raiders, 7-6, the night before.

The loss was just Texas Tech's third of the year, as Tim Tadlock's team fell to 13-3. The Red Raiders haven't lost a series yet this season. They open Big 12 play at Texas next weekend.


The Lineup

Nine newsmakers from Saturday’s action.

Jared Poche', lhp, Louisiana State: With seven scoreless innings in a 12-5 victory Wichita State, Poche' extended his scoreless innings streak to 29 and improved to 4-0, 0.00 this season. His streak is the second-longest in program history, trailing only Ben McDonald's streak of 44 scoreless innings in 1989. The senior struck out three batters, walked none and scattered four hits.

"I honestly thought Jared didn't have his good stuff and was laboring through the early part of the game," coach Paul Mainieri said. "He actually got stronger and threw better in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Those were probably his best innings of the game. I'm so proud of Jared – he's such a fierce competitor, such a great teammate, everybody on the team loves him to death, and it couldn't happen to a better kid."

Ty Weber, rhp, Illinois: Weber took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of the first game of a doubleheader at No. 18 Coastal Carolina before it was broken up with two outs. The freshman struck out six and walked four, but took a no-decision as the Chanticleers came back for a 3-2 victory in the ninth inning.

Matt Reardon, 2b, Florida Gulf Coast: As FGCU extended its winning streak to ten games with a 13-1 victory against Ohio State, Reardon went 4-for-6 with two doubles, a triple and eight RBIs. The junior extended his hitting streak to 13 games and matched the program's Division I era record for RBIs in a single-game.

Alex Robles, rhp, Austin Peay State: The Governors defeated Jacksonville State, 4-0, to clinch the opening series of Ohio Valley Conference play behind a big day from Robles. On the mound, the senior threw a three-hit shutout, striking out 11 and walking one. At the plate, he went 2-for-3 with a run and two RBIs to help his own cause.

Daniel Brumbaugh, 2b/rhp, Richmond: Brumbaugh started at second base for the Spiders, before moving to the mound in the 10th. He threw a scoreless inning, striking out two batters, and then hit a three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom half of the 10th to give Richmond a 5-2 victory against Youngstown State. It was the first homer of the year for the junior, who finished the day 1-for-4 with four RBIs at the plate.

Hayden Roberts, rhp, Southern Mississippi: In the first game of a doubleheader against Xavier, Roberts threw 8.2 scoreless innings to lead Southern Miss to a 2-0 victory. He struck out eight batters, walked two and held the Musketeers to two hits.

Connor Smith, ss, Western Michigan: The sophomore went 5-for-5 with two triples, a double and three RBIs in an 11-6 victory against Villanova at the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla. Smith, the 2016 Mid-American Conference freshman of the year, is hitting .382/.460/.709 in 13 games this season.

Joe DeMers, rhp, Washington: In the first game of a doubleheader against Indiana State, DeMers threw a five-hit shutout with six strikeouts and one walk in an 8-0 win. The sophomore improved to 2-1, 2.51 this season with his first career complete game.

Ryan Larson, of, Florida: Larson, a senior, had not homered in 127 games going into Saturday's nightcap against Seton Hall, a streak that dated back to his sophomore year. Larson (2-for-3) hit solo home runs in back-to-back at bats in the fifth and the seventh innings, helping Florida to a 4-3 victory.

— Teddy Cahill

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