College Baseball: UCI upsets Beavers

The UC Irvine baseball team surprised No. 1-national seed Oregon State, 14-2, Saturday night to put itself one win away from a trip to a Super Regional.

Sophomore left-hander Elliot Surrey worked a masterful seven-plus innings to extend an OSU offensive slump during which the Beavers had scored 17 runs in their last nine games, in the second round of the NCAA Regional at OSU.

Surrey allowed three hits and struck out eight, before exiting with no outs and two men on in the eighth to improve to 7-4. Two runs that scored on a one-out single off UCI closer Sam Moore were charged to Surrey.

Senior Mitch Merten entered with one out and the bases loaded in the eighth and recorded a popup and a strikeout to leave all three runners holding the bag.

Jimmy Litchfield worked the ninth for UCI.

UCI (37-22), which erupted in a 10-3 triumph over UNLV in Friday's opening round to halt a six-game losing streak, advances to Sunday's regional final against the winner of Sunday's elimination game between OSU (43-13) and UNLV (36-24).

If UCI, the regional's No. 3 seed, can win Sunday, it would advance to its fourth Super Regional. If it loses Sunday, another game on Monday would be necessary to decide the regional winner in the double-elimination format.

UCI opened the scoring in the fourth inning when Connor Spencer led off with a double down the left-field line. Spencer advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by cleanup hitter Jerry McClanahan but remained there on Jonathan Munoz's groundout to first.

Then, with an 0-2 count on Grant Palmer, Oregon State pitcher Jace Fry threw a wild pitch off the turf to allow Spencer to score.

The 'Eaters added on three in the fifth, with the benefit of a pair of squeeze bunts. Justin Castro, the No. 9 hitter, began the rally with a one-out, opposite-field double into the right-field corner. Taylor Sparks singled off the third-base umpire to put runners at the corners.

Chris Rabago's subsequent bunt was charged by Fry, whose underhand flip to the plate was not in time to beat a sliding Castro.

After Spencer was hit by a pitch to load the bases, it was McClanahan's turn to bunt. And when Fry threw softly to first base, Rabago sprinted home all the way from second to put UCI up, 4-0.

Sparks led off the UCI seventh with his fifth home run of the season and a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Renae Martinez gave UCI a 6-0 cushion.

A two-run single by Spencer in the eighth made it 8-2, giving Spencer three hits in the game and five RBIs in the regional.

Martinez added a sac fly and John Brontseman singled in a run to make it 10-2 and Kris Paulino capped an eight-run eighth with a grand slam.

UCI, which went hitless in its first three innings against Fry, the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year who had allowed two earned runs in his last 40 innings coming in, stranded two runners in the first inning. Leadoff man Taylor Sparks reached on Fry's errant throw to first base. Sparks advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Chris Rabago but Spencer grounded out to third and, after McClanahan was hit by a pitch, Munoz grounded out to end the threat.

Fry, who came in with a 1.43 earned-run average, gave up six runs, all earned, on six hits in 6 2/3 innings to absorb his first loss in his last 10 starts. He fell to 11-2. .

UCI played sterling defense behind Surrey. Sparks dived to his right to backhand a hot shot inside the bag, then pounced to his feet and threw a one-hopper to Spencer, who snared the throw for the out.

Castro ranged to left-center field and threw a strike to second base to nail Dylan Davis, who was trying to stretch a single, in the OSU fourth.

The 'Eaters, who missed the postseason the last two years and were deemed by NCAA selection committee chair Dennis Farrell to be one of the last four teams into the 64-team regional field, have now won five straight games in regional play and is 15-4 in regionals since 2007.

— Compiled by Barry Faulkner

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