IRVINE, Calif. — Taylor Sparks is only hitting .167 on the season, but he came through with the two biggest hits the last two games. A day after blasting a two-run walk-off homer, Sparks had the game-winning hit Saturday afternoon in a six-run eighth inning to help UC Irvine come back to beat Pacific 7-4 at Anteater Ballpark.
Pacific starter Kyle Crawford was cruising through seven innings having allowed only five hits. But after back-to-back singles with one out in the eighth, the Tigers went to the bullpen. Joe Spizzirri got a flyout, but then allowed a double to score a run and then back-to-back runs added another run to make it 4-3.
Pacific coach Ed Sprague brought in right-hander Chris Larsen to face Sparks. On Larsen’s first pitch, Sparks swung as hard as he could. Sparks didn’t square it up, but the freshman was able to get just enough on it to lift it just past the reach of the second baseman and into shallow right field, scoring a pair of runs to give Irvine the 5-4 lead.
Following a walk, D.J. Crumlich lined a single to left field that scored two more runs. Race Parmenter came on in the ninth inning. After receiving a stern mound visit from head coach Mike Gillespie when he walked the leadoff hitter, Parmenter sat down the Tigers in order to earn his third save of the season.
Mitch Merten earned the victory with 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief when starter Crosby Slaught (5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K) didn’t have his best stuff. Merten allowed only a single and a walk while striking out two.
Crawford was charged with three earned runs in 7 1/3 innings. Spizzirri took the loss. Pacific had jumped out to a 4-0 lead scoring two runs in each the second and third innings. Catcher Jason Taasaas got the Tigers on the board with a home run off the board, blasting a two-run the ricochetted off the scoreboard. He finished with a pair of hits, as did leadoff hitter Josh Simms, who reached base all five plate appearances, walking three times.
For the Anteaters, Scott Gottschling had two big doubles after being inserted into the starting lineup for the injured Jeff Stephens, who crashed into the outfield wall Friday night. Crumlich and Jordan Fox also had multi-hit games.
Check out the photo gallery from Saturday afternoon’s UC Irvine/Pacific matchup below: