NORTHRIDGE, Calif. — The UC Irvine baseball team knows it doesn’t have any margin for error for the remainder of the season. Andrew Thurman even said the team needs to win every game the final three weeks of the season to be in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals.
With that in mind, the Anteaters (28-18, 12-7) did just enough for a come-from-behind 5-3 win Friday afternoon at Matador Field to take the first game of the series against Cal State Northridge (20-24, 7-9).
Thurman battled through a rough three-run second inning to pick up his seventh win of the year and fifth consecutive win since becoming Irvine’s Friday starter. He pitched seven innings, allowing nine hits and three earned runs after allowing only 10 hits and two earned runs in his previous 35 innings over four starts.
Head coach Mike Gillespie said the coaching staff were considering relieving Thurman as early as the fifth inning when the ‘Eaters trailed 3-1, but he kept getting stronger throughout the outing, so the staff let him start the seventh inning even though he had thrown 102 pitches. Gillespie said they decided before the inning to cap him at 115 pitches — meaning he had 13 pitches to work as far as he could in the seventh inning. Thurman needed only 12.
He collected the win thanks to the offense’s awakening in a three-run sixth inning. After allowing an unearned run in the first frame, Northridge starter Alex Muren didn’t allow a hit for the next four innings. But the third time through the lineup, Irvine figured out Muren. Three consecutive singles and a Connor Spencer sacrifice fly tied the game 3-3.
Jordan Fox stole second base and slid in just before the tag when catcher Jerry McClanahan lined a soft single to right field. McClanahan added an insurance run for the Anteaters in the eighth inning when his bunt single on a squeeze play scored Jeff Stephens.
Jimmy Litchfield pitched a scoreless eighth inning for Irvine and Race Parmenter picked up his eighth save of the season, despite allowing the tying runs to get into scoring position before closing the game out.
McClanahan finished with two hits and the two RBI. Tommy Reyes had two hits and two runs for Irvine. For the Matadors, Kyle Attl and Todd Eskelin both had three hits.
The two teams will resume the series tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. at Matador Field. Crosby Slaught (6-4, 3.36 ERA) will get the ball for Irvine while freshman Jerry Keel (5-1, 1.97 ERA) will start for Northridge.
Check out the 20-shot photo gallery from Friday afternoon’s Cal State Northridge/UC Irvine matchup below: