June 14, 2014

  Game 1 Notes

UC Irvine Rallies Past Texas in CWS Opener

By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

phil@collegebaseballinsider.com @RoadToOmaha


OMAHA, Neb. - After missing opportunities early in the game, UC Irvine capitalized late.


Taylor Sparks had an RBI triple to tie the game and scored the go-ahead run in a three-run top of the eighth as the Anteaters rallied past Texas 3-1 Saturday in Game 1 of the 2014 College World Series in front of 23,796 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.


UCI (41-23) will play on Monday, June 16 at 7 p.m., against the winner of the Louisville-Vanderbilt contest. The Longhorns (43-20) will face the loser in an elimination game on Monday at 2 p.m.


"We had some chances, we didn't capitalize," UCI head coach Mike Gillespie said, "but by keeping the game close, why, with there being no clock in this game, why, it was possible for us to do what we did in the eighth."


The Anteaters trailed 1-0 after seven innings and Texas starter Nathan Thornhill had retired eight straight hitters. Adam Alcantara laced a leadoff single to left to start the eighth and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Justin Castro. Sparks (3 for 4) ripped a triple to the wall in left-center to plate Alcantara from second and knot the score at 1.


"I felt like I was able to pick up on it pretty early," Sparks said. "I just put a good swing on it. I figured no reason in the eighth inning to really wait and get deep in the count. I figured just go after whatever pitch I can hit, and luckily I was able to put a good swing on that one."


Thornhill (8-3, 7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, BB, 4 K) departed and John Curtiss took over on the mound for the Longhorns. Would it be time for a squeeze bunt? No. Chris Rabago lined the first pitch up the middle through a drawn-in infield to bring home Sparks and give UCI a 2-1 advantage.


"I'm surprised they didn't try to squeeze there," Texas head coach Augie Garrido said, "because that would have been even more momentum that they took the risk to do what they -- they just executed so well in that inning consistently, but I was surprised they didn't squeeze."


Rabago scored on a single by Jonathan Munoz as the Anteaters built a 3-1 lead.


Evan Brock (9-6) shut the door on the Longhorns over the final two frames. The No. 3 starter for UCI recorded the final out in the seventh and retired all seven hitters he faced, including striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win.


After leaving two on in the first, Texas got on the board in the second. Collin Shaw had a leadoff double, was sacrificed to third and scored on a base hit by Zane Gurwitz to make it a 1-0 contest. The Longhorns had numerous chances over the first seven innings, but stranded a dozen.


"One of the first keys was that Andrew Morales made big pitches to keep that game from getting away from us," Gillespie said. "We all saw how it started, and we know that he threw a ton of pitches. Uncharacteristic of him. But it seemed like they had guys on base every inning they may have or almost every inning, and they were in a position to really break it out, and I think that he did what we've seen him do consistently, which is compete and really never give in."


Morales worked six innings with six hits, one run, three walks and three strikeouts. He threw 108 pitches.


UCI also had its chances early. The Anteaters were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position over the first four frames.